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Issue 31, October 1998

The end of Nigeria?

    Growing tendencies towards break-up
    June 12 and Abiola
    Abiola's death
    No confidence In Abubakar
    The current mood
    What is being done now?

    General background
    National question in Nigeria

Nation-wide celebrations followed the sudden death of military dictator Sunni Abacha in June. Hopes rose that the nightmare of recent years was ending, but Nigeria is not on a path of peaceful, democratic development. In fact it has entered a stormy new period, one which will put into question its continued existence as a single state. JAMES LONG writes.

THE 8 JUNE death of Nigerian dictator Abacha was not accidental. Imperialism, the 'Group of 34' bourgeois Nigerian politicians, and increasing numbers of the military tops, all feared that Abacha's plan to personally remain in power, despite a cosmetic change to 'civilian rule', would only serve as a provocation to the masses.

Already this year there were increasing signs that the opposition movement was reviving nationally after the defeats of 1993 and 1994. March 3 had seen widespread protests against Abacha's scheme to have himself nominated as president. Then, after it had been announced that there would be no presidential election because Abacha was the only nominated candidate, there was a mass boycott of national assembly elections held on 25 April. Turnout figures were not officially released, but were estimated to be under 10%, possibly as low as 1%. Nine protesters were killed in demonstrations in Ibadan during April and May. June 4, the second anniversary of the assassination of Abiola's wife, saw the widest national spread of protests since 1994. There were clear signs of a wider mobilisation for protests planned for June 12, the fifth anniversary of the annulled presidential election. In this situation Abacha's death on 8 June was, at the very least, highly 'convenient' for imperialism.

Despite Western governments' verbal condemnation of Abacha's long record of repression, no serious action was taken against the military regime. Generally, so long as a pro-capitalist military dictatorship is firmly in the saddle, the imperialist powers do little. Only when a regime is becoming unstable or collapsing does the West intervene, and then only to ensure that any new government is 'safe' and pro-imperialist.

  Earlier this year Clinton, during his African tour, had shifted emphasis away from the previous US position that Abacha's election would be 'unacceptable'. Speaking in Cape Town, Clinton said that if Abacha 'stands for election, we hope he will stand as a civilian', ie indicating an acceptance of Abacha staying in power if he gave himself a 'democratic' suit of clothes. But a few weeks later, fearful of the mounting opposition within Nigeria, Washington changed course again and Abacha became a liability.

Once Abacha was gone the next question for imperialism was to ensure the stability of the situation, but this is easier said than done.

  top     Growing tendencies towards break-up

SINCE FLAG INDEPENDENCE in 1960 Nigeria has been ruled by civilian regimes for a total of only nine years. Mostly it has been ruled by a small group of generals and their hangers on. Like most neo-colonial countries the Nigerian capitalist economy, despite oil, was too weak to meet the aspirations of the working masses. The result was that democratic rights were frequently suspended and mass movements repressed. But also in Nigeria there was another destabilising factor, the struggle between the different regional elites for control of the central state, a struggle which intensified as the oil boom took off in the 1960s.

Nigeria itself is a relatively recent creation consisting of over 250 identified ethnic groups. The largest groupings are the Hausa/Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the relatively economically developed south-west, and the Ibos in the oil rich south-east. British imperialism's military conquest of the area was only completed in 1903 and it created the country called Nigeria in 1914. As in many other colonies a Nigerian national consciousness was forged as the struggle against imperialist rule and for independence developed. In Nigeria the workers' movement took a strong stand against ethnic or religious divisions.

After the Second World War British imperialism, faced with a rising nationalist movement, ensured that the northern Hausa/Fulani elite, the most conservative in the country, ruled at independence. This has fundamentally been the case ever since. Although the north has few mineral resources and is the least industrialised area of the country, the northern elite have controlled the state machine, the military and the oil revenues since 1960. This has meant that, from independence, there have been tensions within Nigeria. The 1966 massacres of Ibos, after a brief Ibo-led military regime, led to the 1967-70 civil war when the Ibo Biafran Republic tried to split away.

Although possibly up to two million died in the civil war, the oil boom of the 1970s helped strengthen Nigerian national identity and consciousness. But since then this has been increasingly undermined by years of decline, persecution of minorities and, in the 1990s, the defeats of national fightbacks. The result has been increased support for separatism, notwithstanding the fear of possibly bloody inter-ethnic conflicts.

  This was not an inevitable development. After the collapse of the oil boom in 1981 there was a tremendous radicalisation in Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the few African countries which has never had a national government - military or civilian - which has even claimed to be 'socialist'. This meant that when the oil crisis hit and radicalisation developed, increasingly socialism was seen as the way out. In 1986 the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) trade union federation replaced its previous objective of 'welfarism' with the goal of socialism and posed the need to create a workers' party. In 1987 even a military-appointed committee reported that a majority of Nigerians wanted socialism!

But the leaders of the Nigerian trade union movement, despite their 1986 adoption of socialism as an objective, decided not to challenge the generals. There have long been political divisions in the Nigerian unions between the 'democrats' (pro-capitalist elements backed by Nigerian and Western governments) and 'progressives' (lefts, often linked to the former Soviet Union). But as the crisis deepened and military repression increased, the majority of union leaders, 'progressives' as well as 'democrats', were less and less prepared to lead a fight back, let alone seriously fight for socialism. Both factions, in fact, decided to unite and defend their bureaucratic interests.

  top     June 12 and Abiola

ONE REASON FOR the military's annulment of the June 1993 presidential election was that a Yoruba southerner, Abiola, won. By this act the military made Abiola a symbol, especially among Yorubas, of opposition to military, and also northern, rule.

Imperialism itself did not have the same fear of Abiola, a billionaire who had made his wealth through deals with multi-nationals, although they did not fully trust him. The West believed a continuation of military rule would only lead to greater instability and pose the possibility of the country's break-up. But imperialism was not in direct control and was forced to watch the military remain in power. No significant Western action was taken against military rule because, at the end of the day, they wanted to try to keep the armed forces intact as a force to defend capitalism.

While the military coups of 1983 and, to a lesser extent, of 1985, were popular, now the generals are hated. Given the failure of the NLC leaders to fight for their formal objective of socialism and the complete absence of a fighting workers' party in Nigeria, this enormous hostility towards military rule has been expressed in support for democracy. But this is not the same as support for civilian politicians or, for that matter, corrupt trade union leaders. Democracy is seen as being against corruption and for the country's wealth to be used for the common good. While these ideas are not immediately socialist, they in fact can only be permanently realised if the grip of imperialism, capitalism and landlordism is broken.

Fearing this hostility towards themselves, the military have repeatedly promised to restore civilian rule. Always their 'transitional programmes' are heavily controlled, with the military choosing the parties and, on the last two occasions, the candidates as well. Nevertheless many Nigerians saw the 12 June 1993 presidential elections as an opportunity to remove military rule. However the then military dictator, Babangida, annulled the election and later Abacha, his successor, put the winner, MKO Abiola, in detention from 1994 until his death in July.

  But the generals were not able to annul the 1993 election easily, with mass opposition continuing into 1994. The struggles involved large sacrifices: in Lagos alone at least 170 were killed in 1993. In 1994 the workers in oil refining and distribution (but not production) went on strike demanding an end to military rule and for Abiola to be declared president. Tragically the other trade union leaders, despite promising to call a general strike, allowed the oil workers to be isolated and eventually defeated. The strikes involved much hardship and, in the end, exhausted large sections of the proletariat and petit bourgeois.

These struggles, while gaining some ground in 1993, were ultimately defeated. Babangida, and then the puppet civilian ING (Interim National Government) he appointed, were both forced out in 1993. Yet the military, now under General Abacha, remained in power. A layer of politicians actually co-operated with the military in late 1993 and 1994 hoping Abacha would make way for them to come to office. Kingibe, Abiola's vice-presidential running mate, himself became one of Abacha's longest serving ministers.

There was a downturn, but not a complete absence, of mass struggles after the defeat of the 1994 oil workers' strike. After a defeat, and in a severe economic and social crisis, some layers look elsewhere for hope. In the non Hausa/Fulani areas of Nigeria, military rule became more and more seen as oppression by another nationality, resulting in growing support for separatism. The desperate social conditions also encouraged a rise in the numbers of 'born again' Christians and other messianic religious groups. However the approach of 1 October 1998 itself, the date when Abacha promised to end military rule, helped to revive the opposition movement from the start of this year.

  top     Abiola's death

THE REALITY BEHIND the Nigerian military's latest plans for civilian rule remains a desperate attempt to avoid an explosion in this volatile situation, prevent a mass movement developing, and to maintain the military intact.

The imperialist powers hoped that the military would step back in 1993, but the then ruler Babangida annulled the presidential election. Since then the anger and bitterness of the masses has grown enormously, increasing the fears of imperialism of revolutionary movements. Ghana's ruler, Rawlings, let the cat of the bag when he said in mid-July that 'Nigeria has had a taste of civil war and what we must do is to prevent class war'.

As recent events have unfolded there is increasing speculation that Abacha was assassinated in June by fellow officers who feared that his attempt to stay in power would provoke revolution. The new ruler Abubakar, who has close links with the US military, then very slowly moved to introduce limited changes from the top. At first they hoped that Abiola would give up his claim to be president and co-operate with the military. But Abiola refused to do this in writing and, very 'conveniently' for the military, suddenly died while still in prison.

The doctors who examined Abiola have said he died of natural causes. That cannot be ruled out, although it is clear that the military, which held him for four years in solitary confinement, are responsible for his health. As one of his daughters said Abiola died 'either because medical neglect brought on a heart attack or because they poisoned him'.

Abiola's death brought the predictable hypocritical statements. On 1 July Nigeria's then Foreign Minister Ikimi was still telling the BBC that Abiola had been detained for the treasonable offence of declaring himself president and he had to renounce his claim before being released. But on 8 July, the day after his death, Abubakar praised Abiola in a TV address, saying that his death was 'tragic, particularly as he died on the brink of his release from detention'. Of course Abubakar did not explain why he had kept Abiola and others in detention during his first month in power.

But, whatever the military say, the mass of the Yoruba people believe that Abiola was killed because the northern elite do not want to give up control of the national state. Widespread protests broke out in south-western Nigeria once Abiola's death was announced. But the main pro-democracy groupings were silent and gave no direction. Tragically, in a warning of some of the dangers ahead, in some areas rioting took on an ethnic character. Firstly with Yoruba attacks on Hausas and then Hausas counter-attacking, often with security forces protection. These clashes died down, but they show how protests can be diverted in a reactionary direction in the absence of any clear direction of how to fight for democratic rights and against the elite.

  top     No confidence In Abubakar

ABUBAKAR'S 20 JULY statement on civilian rule showed that the generals want to keep a grip on any transition. While the new regime does probably not want to continue direct military rule, its 'step by step' approach shows a determination to try to keep control of the situation. That is why the military tops decided that they would postpone the handover they previously proposed for 1 October and remain in power an extra eight months until 31 May 1999.

It seems, on the surface, that Nigeria's new military leader Abubakar is steadily moving towards the restoration of elements of democratic rights. But despite the slow release of political prisoners, unbanning of some trade unions and the granting of some democratic rights, Abubakar's regime is maintaining the essentials of military rule.

Decree No.2 of 1984, which allows the government to detain anyone indefinitely without trial and which has been used to imprison 3,000 people, remains firmly in place. At the beginning of August six journalists were still being held in jail without trial. Despite a 22 May court ruling granting them bail, the police are refusing to release 15 of the Ogoni 20 who have been held in prison since 1994. Hundreds of students are still being expelled from universities because they have participated in pro-democracy protests.

In Nigeria there is great scepticism about the military's plans. In the last 11 years the military have set six different dates for a handover to civilian rule, but the previous five dates have been cancelled. Abubakar did not oppose this, he was intelligence chief under Babangida's rule and number three in Abacha's regime. Now Abubakar has extended military rule by a further eight months. The fact that the military refused to release Abiola because it could not get a deal with him, that political prisoners have only been gradually released, that emergency decree powers have not been scrapped, that the state security agencies still function and, most significantly, that military rule is extended yet again, all show that the generals only grant those democratic rights which they are forced to.

  Abubakar has said that he will allow the free creation of political parties but, by creating a new electoral commission to register parties, in reality the military are not allowing parties to stand freely in elections. Time and again since independence Nigerian regimes, both civilian and military, have prevented parties standing in elections by refusing them registration. When the 'leftist' PRP split during the Second Republic the then electoral commission only registered the right-wing minority, excluding state governors and members of the national assembly from standing again as PRP members.

Despite Abubakar's speeches there are no guarantees of either a return to civilian rule on 31 May 1999 or how really democratic such a regime would be. Previous military regimes have started by releasing detainees and promising reforms but as the August issue of the Nigerian Socialist Democracy paper noted "all these 'benevolent' dictators, including General Abubakar... always made adequate provision for the period after the 'honeymoon', preserving - in one form or another - the power to detain people without trial". The only guarantor of democratic rights is the building of an independent mass movement.

The reality is that, despite imperialism's wishes, it is not at all certain that the military will hand over the government to civilians. But even if they did they would still try to ensure that control remained in the hands of the northern elite. This is the reason why Abubakar has found it so difficult to form a civilian cabinet to manage affairs under the ruling military council. Abubakar would like to involve politicians from around the country, but many Yoruba politicians are not willing to serve if they are only going to be fig leaves for northern rule.

  top     The current mood

DESPITE DOUBTS, CURRENTLY many Nigerians are waiting to see what will happen under Abubakar's transition programme. They 'hope against hope' that this time things could be different. This could mean that there are no big movements for a period, unless the military clearly show that either they wish to further delay a handover or blatantly try to use the registration process to rig elections.

Already predictable divisions have opened up within the pro-democracy movement. Bourgeois groupings like NADECO and openly careerist elements are indicating their willingness to work with Abubakar. Other more consistent pro-democracy groupings like the National Conscience Party (NCP), led by the radical lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, are refusing to participate in a transition under military rule, especially one which is maintaining intact all the repressive decrees passed by previous dictators.

Within the workers' movement there will be efforts by the right to re-establish a tame national leadership. The old NLC leadership was greatly weakened by its failure to support the oil workers in 1994 and the subsequent refusal of those national union leaders who remained out of jail to seriously struggle on economic, let alone democratic, issues. With the unbanning of the NLC's national structure there will undoubtedly be attempts to isolate the more radical, fighting elements and create a leadership willing to work with capitalism. This will be aided by the German Social Democrats' Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which seems to have recently taken over the role, formerly played by the British TUC, of fostering pro-capitalist policies within Nigerian unions. However at state level there are some union leaderships which are prepared to fight, despite the effects of the defeats of the past years and of economic collapse. Together with national figures like the oil workers' leader Frank Korori, who was held in detention for nearly four years, there is the possibility to create a movement to build fighting and democratic trade unions.

  This radicalised layer also exists outside the trade unions in Nigeria. In Nigeria today the crisis is so deep that a sudden turn of events could give this radicalised layer a much wider audience.

If such movements do develop then the likelihood is that the replacement of military rule by a government of national unity will be posed. For some time now a big majority of the pro-democracy movement has supported the call for such a government, although there have been divisions on whether or not the military should be included.

Within the pro-democracy movement it has only been the Marxist Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) which has consistently opposed the call for a government of national unity. As the July issue of the DSM's paper Socialist Democracy argued, "socialists oppose, in principle, the idea of a government of national unity, because it tends to reinforce the illusion that there can be a sincere, mutually beneficial united alliance between capitalist exploiters and the working people, their victims. Socialists strongly hold that such a government of national unity will only work to prevent the impoverished masses from fighting to better their lot under the pretext that the government in power is a government based upon the unity of all classes!" The exact unfolding of events is hard to predict. Economically the situation is likely to continue worsening, especially if the oil price keeps falling. The military see the need to give concessions in order to try to forestall new movements but, on the other hand, the northern elite are reluctant to give up power. An open attempt to rig the transition would not only be likely to lead to new broad movements but would also further strengthen separatist tendencies. A possibility is that the military may be forced to tolerate a civilian regime for a time, but then the underlying social crisis would probably lead sooner or later to yet another military intervention. However this too would also reinforce separatism.

One thing is clear, this period of relative freedom will not last long in a capitalist Nigeria.

  top     What is being done now?

THE CONCESSIONS WHICH the military have been forced to concede have opened up an opportunity to widen the struggle for democratic rights, improved living standards and socialist ideas. How long this opportunity will last is another question. Fundamentally this depends on the strength of the mass movement. Activists are already working to utilise this situation to rebuild the workers' and students' movements, at the same time as starting to construct a strong socialist organisation.

These struggles have not just began in recent months. In 1994, after the banning of the two oil workers unions, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, along with the NLC, union activists and socialists formed the Campaign for Independent Unionism, which fights for the creation of a democratic class struggle trade union movement free from state control. The possibilities for radical politics were already shown when the NCP was formed in 1994. While not socialist the NCP's total opposition to military rule and its call to 'Abolish Poverty' encouraged about 500,000 Nigerians to buy application forms to join what was then an illegal party. Within the NCP socialists won wide support for many of their ideas and today hold many leading positions in a party which has thousands of members.

In this situation the socialists who publish the paper Socialist Democracy launched the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) as an open political organisation in July. The August issue of Socialist Democracy explained that: "The DSM comprises socialist activists who, as a group, have been active in the labour, youth and pro-democracy movements since the mid-1980s. At different times in the past decade we have published Labour Militant, then Militant, and now Socialist Democracy, as a means of propagating genuine socialist ideas and also intervening in the struggles of workers, the youth and other oppressed strata against military dictatorship and capitalist injustices, and for a democratic, just and decent society.

  "The public launching of the organisation arises out of the need, more than ever before, to present in a clearer organisational form, a democratic socialist alternative to the vicious circle of dictatorship and poverty which is the hallmark of Nigerian capitalism".

This 'vicious circle of Nigerian capitalism' means that there is only limited time for socialists to build a movement. Nowhere more than in Africa today is Rosa Luxembourg's famous statement, that the choice facing humanity is 'socialism or barbarism', more true.

Although small, the fact that the launch of the DSM was attended by the elected leaders of the Lagos state workers and the Lagos journalists, by representatives of human rights groups, the NCP, and youth and student groups, shows the potential it has. Now the DSM is working to give concrete form to the long expressed desire of Nigerian activists for socialism. As the June issue of Socialist Democracy explained, 'our constant goal must be to build a formidable working class-led mass socialist party capable of leading the struggle to end the prevailing unjust capitalist system'.

  top     General background

Nigeria, with its oil wealth, is different from many other neo-colonial countries. The majority of ruling elite do not really care about developing the manufacturing or agricultural sectors of the economy. The only sure source of wealth in Nigeria is the daily inflow of $30 million petrodollars into the regime's off-shore bank accounts. This now makes up at least 85% of total government revenue and is the "pot of gold" over which the elite fight. Corruption and financial swindles are the easy way to make money, certainly better than the unpredictable fluctuations of industrial production or "normal" trade.

But, apart from a brief period in the 1970s and very early 1980s, oil has not benefited the majority. While income per person grew at 3.3% a year between 1956 to 1966, in the whole period since the 1973 oil price rise the average figure has been below 0.02%. Despite 30 years of oil exports worth over $ 225 bn annual average per capita income today of around $280 is no higher that before the oil boom, although in the early 1980s it reached $1,000. Officially half the population live below the poverty line and 20% of children die before they reach the age of 5.

For a time the oil boom boosted the economy. Between 1975 and 1980 the economy grew by a real 6%-7% per year. But this came to an end in 1981. Between 1981 and 1983 Nigeria's GDP fell by 12.1%, the boom was over. The subsequent years of crisis have revealed how Nigeria, like all neo-colonial countries, was not able to independently develop its economy. Nigeria, with over 100 million people and enormous natural resources, has a greater economic potential than any European country. But competition from the already developed and imperialist controlled world market prevents any sustained development of the economy.

  In this situation the Nigerian elite do not see the way to increase their wealth by investing in production etc. The struggle at the top is over who has access to the oil ( and increasing gas) money and how much can be siphoned off.

This money vanishes in different ways. An unpublished government inquiry estimated that at least 7% of oil production immediately "disappears" from official view. Another government inquiry in 1994 could find no trace of where $12.2 billion, largely received in extra oil income during the 1991 Gulf War, went; it simply "disappeared".

This is a key reason why the military tops are not prepared to hand over power to civilians. Generals become Dollar millionaires, despite "only" receiving military pay. In June the London Times reported that Western diplomats estimate that, since the early 1970s, Nigerian leaders have amassed personal fortunes totalling $217 billion in foreign, mainly Swiss and Lebanese, banks. Nigeria's foreign debt is currently $37 billion. The Times estimated that Abacha himself accumulated $5.8 bn during his nearly five years in power.

Since the end of the oil boom in 1981 the economy has collapsed. Industrial production is one third lower than it was in 1982. The Naira, the currency which until 1986 was equal to one US Dollar, is now down to 86 Naira for one US Dollar. An IMF inspired Structural Adjustment Programme and other austerity measures, while hitting the masses, failed to reserve the decline.

Despite the 1996 lifting of controls on foreign ownership and profit repatriation direct foreign investment fell from $1.5 billion in 1993 to only $200 million last year. This is mainly by oil and construction companies in Nigeria. However these projects do not effect the main economic sectors. The regime is also looking forward to gaining new revenue ( both officially and unofficially ) from the new exploitation of natural gas reserves starting in 1999 from $ 2.8 billion Bonny project, with expected annual exports of $1 bn.

  Although in 1996 a small oil price rise allowed the regime to carry out some minor measures (repairing a few rods, buying drugs for hospitals) this year's collapse in oil prices to under $12 a barrel has completely undermined the regime's 1998 Budget which was based upon a price of $17. But even before this oil price fall, and despite Budget promises of more spending, the regime was planning to sack 150,000 civil servants, 30% of the total.

Fundamentally the economy is stuck in depression. While officially inflation fell in 1997 to 8.5% compared with 72.8% in 1995, but the fuel shortage caused transport costs to rise by 200% in 1997. The general fall in inflation was largely due to deep recession in the economy, despite government claims of 3.8% GDP growth. Officially manufacturing grew by 0.72% in 1997 after 1.02% rise in 1996, and its official capacity utilisation was 33%. But generally company after company complains of low demand on top of the "standard" infrastructural weaknesses of no stable electricity or telephones, transport problems and corruption.

The continuation and deepening of economic crisis is illustrated in current fuel crisis in what is the world's eleventh largest oil producer and seventh biggest oil exporter. Mainly due to massive corruption currently only one of Nigeria's 5 oil refineries is working, and that at 50% of capacity. Power stations producing only 34% of their "normal" output. Naira has fallen by 10% against US $ in past year. The fall in oil prices is further a harsh blow, particularly as, in 1996, oil accounted for 96.9% of Nigerian exports.

Older generations can remember the benefits of the brief oil boom (free education, grants for university students, free health care, increasing urban living standards and a strong currency). But today apart from those who hope to become rich through swindles, the mass of the population have nothing to look forward to. Six years ago it was estimated that 1% of the population owned 75% of Nigeria's private wealth, today the concentration is probably even greater.

  Many industrial workers now work for a six or even six and a half day week. In Nigeria the international bosses' offensive has taken the form of cutting the workforce and extending the working week for those workers who remain. Workers are usually forced to do second, part-time jobs or become street traders. Pay in both the state and private sectors is often late. Many women and children are traders, either in markets or increasingly often trying to sell a few items, like candles, from the roadside.

In the public sector, especially in the police and military, bribe taking is an essential part of securing a living. On busy roads police and military units run, on a rota basis, road blocks from which they extract bribes. Wages are so low that in many state offices workers are expected to only come to their workplace once or twice a week, so that they can have time to have a second job.

Nigeria is one of the few African countries which has never had a national government which has even claimed to be "socialist". All the civilian governments were very openly capitalist. This meant that when the oil crisis hit one of the results was a widespread radicalisation and understanding that socialism was the only alternative to capitalism. In 1986 the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC - the Nigerian trade union federation) replaced its previous objective of "welfarism" with the goal of socialism and posed the need to create a "workers' party". In mid-1987 a military-appointed commission of enquiry reported that the majority of Nigerians wanted socialism.

But since then the combined effects of the labour leaders' role and the USSR's collapse has weakened the support for socialism, especially among the petit bourgeois. Currently the most popular solutions are ending corruption so that the oil wealth can be productively invested, often linked with the idea of breaking up the country. Nevertheless among a layer of workers and youth there is still a socialist consciousness combined with a searching for answers for what happened to the former USSR.

  top     National question

The fact that the northern elite blocked Abiola, a southerner, from becoming President in 1993 has led to growing support, especially among Yorubas, for to secession.

Traditionally the workers movement stood for maintaining the unity of the country, against attempts to "divide and rule". But with dead end capitalism offers Nigeria the question is starkly posed that either it is overthrown or the country will break up, or at the very least be wrecked by ethnic/religious conflict.

Given the fact that there are over 250 identified ethnic groups in Nigeria a break up could be extremely brutal. There are minorities within minorities. For example Ogonis, who were brought into the spotlight by the 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists, are not simply one nation. Reflecting the region's low level of development they themselves are divided into 6 kingdoms and speak 4 languages.

Desperate struggles for land and work can, in the absence of an alternative, spark off bitter struggles. The military's March 1997 relocation of local government offices has sparked off tribal clashes in different areas. Around the eastern city of Warri over 1,000 have been killed in 1997 in tribal battles in which automatic weapons are regularly used. This year has seen fighting between Ife and Modakeke tribes, both of which are Yoruba based, over the location of a Local Government headquarters.

The DSM's Declaration explains that: "as socialists, we advocate a united socialist Nigeria, based on free and voluntary association and built on social justice and the principle of equal and fair treatment for all the nationalities that make up the country. If it may be stressed it is only a workers' and poor peasants government, built on socialist foundations, that has the potential and capacity to forge a truly harmonious relationship between the different nationalities that make up Nigeria. Consequently, we are totally opposed to and will strongly resist any process whereby any section(s) of the country attempt to use force of arms to keep any section(s) of the country to remain within the geo-political entity called Nigeria or any other name for that matter."

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