Tasks and Perspectives

Nigerian police unit to be ‘disbanded,’ but protests continue


This article mirrors an article originally uploaded to Socialist Resurgence.

After a week of mass organizing across Nigeria, officials announced on Sunday, Oct. 11, their intentions to dissolve the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), a particular unit of the Nigerian Police Force known for corrupt policing and excessive use of (often lethal) force. 

Protesters have continued to hit the streets following the announcement, unconvinced that state officials will follow through. Officials have promised police reform for years, and the rampant police brutality has only gotten more severe. If the mass mobilizations end now, many Nigerians don’t believe that officials would seriously address issues of police brutality. In fact, already there is word of creating a new police unit that would replace SARS.

SARS was founded in 1992 as a way to combat the rising rate of robbery in Lagos; however, these specialized units very quickly cropped up in every state of Nigeria. The unit originally focused only on robbery, but their role expanded to include kidnapping and cultism. As their rules of engagement became increasingly broad and ill-defined, the unit devolved into corruption, brutality, and unprofessionalism, paralleling the decaying structure of the Nigerian police force as a whole. 

Protest in Port Harcourt. (Okezie Adindu)

Allegations of extrajudicial killings, bribery, extortion, sexual assault, and harassment seem never-ending when it comes to the Nigerian police, especially SARS in particular. 

Horrific history of police brutality and misconduct 

In late 2009, a report by Amnesty International stated that hundreds of people are unlawfully killed by the Nigerian police every year. Many of these murders are the result of excessive force during arrest. Others are simply extrajudicial executions by police officers. Some officers have even killed people for failing to pay a bribe to officers—and this is only the most severe form of extortion.  

In June (2020), Amnesty International reported that Nigerian authorities had failed to prosecute even one single SARS officer for misconduct. This is despite anti-torture legislation passed in 2017 and substantial evidence that SARS officers have continued to torture people taken into custody—sometimes to death. In February, BBC African Eye even uncovered footage of torture being used by multiple branches of the Nigerian police and armed forces. One particular form of torture seems to be widely used on detainees, both as punishment and during interrogation—the method has even been used on children detainees. 

This has been going on for well over a decade, yet Nigerian officials fail to act, instead preferring to turn a blind eye to the brutality, extortion, and lack of professionalism. Perpetrators face no legal justice, and the families of victims very rarely receive any sort of reparations. 

Protesters familiar with empty promises of police reform

In spite of the president’s assurances to reform the police, and the subsequent announcement that SARS would be dissolved given by the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria, protests have not slowed.Protesters are demanding the unconditional release of those arrested during this last week of protest.

Further, the Nigerian people have seen countless instances of governmental promises to reform the police that never come to fruition. In fact, just two days after the announcement that SARS would be “disbanded,” the Inspector General of Police then announced plans to replace SARS with a new policing unit, this time under the new name Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. 

It’s unlikely this new policing unit will address the issues seen in SARS. Consider that in 2018, the government set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the activities of SARS and make recommendations for reform. The commission’s report has yet to even be made public—and this is almost two years after the panel submitted its findings to the government.

Of course, you hardly need an official report to notice misconduct within SARS. Viral videos capturing countless acts of brutality by SARS officers dominate the internet in Nigeria. Nigerian youths are especially likely to be victimized. SWAT will almost certainly continue this legacy of police brutality, and this is why the mass mobilizations in Nigeria are not about to subside any time soon.

Relationship to global movement for Black Lives Matter

“Our lives matter!” chant protesters in Port Harcourt. “End police brutality!”

The movement in Nigeria is, of course, part of a larger movement that’s been happening internationally. What began in the U.S. following the murder of George Floyd has spread to countries all over the world, demanding an end to police brutality and the racist targeting and murder of Black lives. 

This indicates just how influential these kinds of mass mobilizations can be. Further, this trend has strong implications for the self-determination of oppressed peoples. Nigeria, once a British colony, officially attained independence back in 1960, but the impact of imperialism remains a strong influence on the country. 

What has been achieved in a few days of relentless effort is an indication of the power of the masses working together as a united front. In Nigeria, people face political corruption, insecurity, and total government failure to provide basic needs like housing and medical care. This victory has shown the masses of Nigeria that their power lies in independent organizing against the oppressors. 

As the class struggle in Nigeria deepens, workers will see the importance in organizing a revolutionary political party independent of the ruling class. After all, we have nothing to lose but our chains!  

Tasks and Perspectives

Solidarity with all the oppressed Nigerians

Isimala and Yusuf are from Gwadabawa, the local government area of Sokoto, but both now live in  Abuja Nigeria. Isimala was born  1978 (42yrs) and Yusuf 1975 (45yrs) respectively; Isimala has two wives with seven children, while Yusuf has three wives with ten children. Both reviewed that they have been farmers all their lives and did not attend any form of classroom education. 

Rice and corn FarmDeiDeiAbujaNigeria#Yusulf&Isimalay

In Spite of being farmers all their lives, they do not have farmland of their own. They are farming for big oligarchies who have the power to seize land and control the peasant economy. Like many other small farmers that make up this peasantry class, Yusulf and Isimala are in abject poverty. Life has not been easy for them–something true for all the oppressed people of Nigeria, regardless of whether they are out in the farms or taking on wage labor in the city. Like in much of Nigeria, In a time where house rent has risen unprecedentedly in Abuja,  one will wonder with the level of poverty in Nigeria, which Yusulf&Isimala is completely victims of, how have they managed with accommodation? According Yusulf&Isimala, they have lived in Abuja for 14years and have found shelter on any uncompleted buildings and sometimes move under any available cave. It is disheartening that our people are poor in the midst of plenty, is painful that millions of Nigerians are  going to bed hungry,  Nigeria’s poverty crisis is worsening, Oxfam, World Bank data, while politicians keep looting our common resources with numerous tactics,  with corruptions well planned and executed.  

These variables over the years have become powerful divisive tools used in Nigeria, to keep the oppressed class isolated and angry against each other. The oppressors have hid under them to divide and keep us away from each other. Someone like Yususl and Isimala who is Muslims from Northern     Nigeria, have a different political and religious view which is  designed in such way that made them think the right people to be in position of power are muslims, and the best religion is Islam, and this is applicable to someone in the in the Southern Nigeria. This is completely a gamic and designed injustice by the the oppressor to make sure we don’t unite.    

Ethnicity, Religion, political affiliation and gender a gamic of the oppressors .

We are one people, all the oppressed people of the world are one, all the oppressed Nigerians are one people. Religion, ethnicity, political affiliation and gender does not matter. We must unite against political corruption and we must unite to change those who have kept us in the cave for many years.

Since Yusulf&Isimala is suffering abject poverty as a result of corruption and Emeka and Olamide are still suffering the same poverty as a result of corruption makes us one people. What we have is two classes of people, two religions, two political parties, the oppressed and oppressors.  

We are one people.  

Musa is a herder from #Abuja. He is passionate to succeed in life, but the system subjected him to this exploitative job. Musa, has never been to any classroom education before. The deprivation is intentional, and is geared towards making him a lesser human who’s psych can be manipulated to serve the master business.

The ethnic tensions, which many have lost their lives to, is a manipulated battle to grab up land by the herders, all while getting protection of the land by farmers. This animosity serves the oligarchies, who profit off the land. Its obvious this divide is manipulation by the oppressors to further divide the people who are oppressed. People like #ShyibuMusa walk miles to feed cattle that he has no economic control over.

He is from #Fulaniethnic group, I am from #Igboethnic group, two ethnic group that the oppressors have manipulated in hopes of dividing us. But I love him and he loves me. He is a victim of oppression and I am a victim of oppression, so we are one. We must, as people from the same oppressed class, unite irrespective of your ethnicity, religion gender, and sex. We must unite in a formidable class movement. This is how we will end oppression of us both.

I stand in solidarity with him and I feel his suffering as if it were my own. Workers of the world unite.

Tasks and Perspectives

The Democrats don’t care about democracy.

While this can be read as a standalone, it is a follow-up to the article:

The DNC does not have to hold fair elections.

“Neoliberal theorists are, however, profoundly suspicious of democracy. Governance by majority rule is seen as a potential threat to individual rights and constitutional liberties. Democracy is viewed as a luxury, only possible under conditions of relative affluence coupled with a strong middle-class presence to guarantee political stability. Neoliberals therefore tend to favour governance by experts and elites.”

― David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism

According to Politico, members of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) actually discussed changing the primary election rules to stop Sanders at the convention in 2020. If this is surprising to you, you’re likely unaware that there was a class-action lawsuit brought against the DNC for its handling of the 2016 election. Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders argued that they were denied a fair and impartial election, and that financial contributions were being made under the assumption that this was a fair democratic process. While the courts recognized that the DNC had, in fact, treated voters unfairly, a federal judge nonetheless dismissed the lawsuit. Why? Well, the DNC is a private corporation, and therefore isn’t required to hold fair elections at all.

Footage of Nancy Pelosi “giving credit where credit’s due,” when DJ Trump tells her he’s allowed to nuke Rosie O’Donnell’s home so long as he classifies it as “mission essential.”

And then we have classic voter suppression. Focusing just on the use of coronavirus to suppress voting, recall Florida, Illinois, and Arizona all held their primary elections despite medical professionals strongly pushing for quarantine and social distancing. Wisconsin held their primary elections even later into the pandemic, and long before the flattening of the curve. There’s 19 new cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin linked to election activities. Two poll workers for the Florida primary tested positive shortly after the primary was held (meaning they very likely infected many voters). After a Chicago poll worker died from the virus and another tested positive, the city was forced to warn voters that they may have been exposed to the virus at polling places. Considering the lack of available tests, it’s very likely holding these primaries spread the infection more than we can ever definitively know.

I could go on, but I’d rather not because talking about the DNC is honestly just boring. Now I’m not saying election corruption necessarily lost Bernie the nomination. It’s possible he’d have lost even if this were a fair election (though, not sure the extreme concentration of media ownership ever constitutes a “fair” election).

That’s right Jack, I see you. I hear you.

But all things considered, I’d understand if a lot of people heavily-invested in Bernie’s campaign (his “bros,” is the proper terminology, I believe) are furious with the DNC right now.

NOTE: People like me are not why he lost, if that’s what you’re thinking. I fully intended on voting for him in the primaries (I’m registered in a state that hasn’t voted yet, so it’s sort of moot now), and I strongly encouraged everyone and their grandmother to vote for the guy on the off-chance it worked. I’ve gone without healthcare before, I’ve had a number of shitty run-ins with the criminal justice system, and I’m in hella debt. I’d have been stoked if Bernie got in there and lifted that authoritarian boot off my face, even just a little bit.

Welcome to the Bern Unit.

So instead of Bernie, the DNC is riden’ with Biden…an old man riddled with dementia known for, uh, yeah…

Sir, that is literally a child.

Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden because he ultimately doesn’t believe a progressive movement is possible without backing from the DNC. He doesn’t believe a workers party is possible at all―the DNC and RNC are both political parties that represent the ruling (capitalist) class interests. This is why electoral politics in the US collapses into what is essentially a culture war…neither party represents the interests of working people. Nor do they represent the interests of small business owners…if lobbying isn’t in your budget, then expect this ruling class to throw you under the bus the moment it benefits them (e.g. COVID-19 bailouts that essentially screwed over everyone but massive corporations).

Staying within this two-party system framework forces you to assume the position that some workers do need to be sacrificed to maintain the existence of an extremely wealthy capitalist class. What changes is which workers you deem expendable. Do you draw the line at child labor, but excuse low wage labor exploitation? Do you draw the line at white workers, but excuse the exploitation of people of color? Do you draw the line at American workers, but excuse exploitation overseas? Do you draw the line at college-educated young adults, but excuse young military recruits being sent into excessively dangerous situations?

These are all morality arguments that hinge on the cultural norms you grew up with. And yeah, the Bernie campaign really did push back on this: Not me, us. No one needs to be sacrificed!

And such a stance is materially opposed to any political party representing the ruling class. Like, say, the DNC. A capitalist political party that really does love rules and formality and civility…which is why Trump is so offensive to them. He’s so crass, it’s no wonder the poors love him (which…they don’t really, but reality’s never stopped the libs before).

The libs love a good loophole, are suspicious of real democracy, and they want to maintain their own class (the ruling class) far more than they want their own little cultural wing of the party to succeed. Sure, they think Trump lacks taste, but at least he isn’t talking about redistribution.

They’re so ineffective, it almost seems…performative. Like they don’t really oppose Trump’s political agenda that much, they just think he’s gauche.

You fell for one of the classic blunders: the popular front vs. the united front.

Running a candidate in the DNC didn’t destroy the DNC this time, but there’s always 2024, boys.

The Bernie campaign wasn’t a workers movement, so much as it was a popular front due to its reliance on the DNC. A popular front is an alliance between workers and the capitalist ruling class…one that relies on that capitalist class support to sustain itself. The issue with this sort of organizing lies in that fundamental power imbalance. While workers in the movement sacrifice their political goals in an effort to make “realistic” demands (e.g. demands the ruling class may willingly give up), the ruling class is never actually obligated to give anything. You’ve made it clear you think working with them is the only route to power. You’re not a threat to them, so why would they give up anything?

This was the flaw in trying to “take over” the Democratic party. You’ve literally told them you don’t think a workers movement is possible without backing from the DNC. The leftwing of the capitalist class isn’t you’re fucking roommate…they’re not just going to give you rights because you showed a willingness to compromise.

This is opposed to the united front, which is a coalition of working people who unite around a shared political goal. For instance, the push for ending child labor in the US constituted a united front, with some groups in the coalition being explicitly socialist, while others were the working children themselves, many of whom likely did not identify as socialist. Still, others may have been small business owners (who are not actually in the capitalist ruling class despite not entirely being workers either).

The united front doesn’t need to make concessions to some ruling class allies to sustain itself. As such, it is typically this type of coalition-building that lends to a weakening of ruling class power, as opposed to a mere reshuffling of how labor exploitation occurs. Child labor laws didn’t mean adult workers would need to work longer hours at lower pay…they meant capitalists materially got to extract less profit from laborers. This was an actual economic win for the working class.

Of course, if your organizations dissolve because “we did it,” you risk capitalists slinking back to steal back the profits they lost while no one’s organized enough to react. They’ll always extract as much profit as they think they can get away with. My boyfriend grew up doing unpaid labor for commercial construction projects…so child labor in the US. This was in a religious cult, so the upaid part made him “closer to God,” or some shit. It also made the cult leader/capitalist a shit load of money. And while this might surprise some that this took place in the US, I hope it’s not news that US corporations use overseas child labor all the time.

This is what happens when your movement is about reshuffling oppressions, rather than materially changing conditions for all workers. Stop giving up ground to a capitalist party that literally owes you nothing in return. Meanwhile, that compromising is very often what’s limiting your movement. If your organizing could include all workers in the US, but you limit your scope to citizens as a stipulation of a popular front alliance with the capitalist class…the capitalists will fuck you over, and you’ve just shown non-citizens that their rights are negotiable. That is more damaging to the movement than telling the ruling class you will not capitulate to their demands. Honestly, that’s very likely why they proposed you do it in the first place. They didn’t just waste your time, they set you back.

That’s how you get supposed feminists telling rape survivors that they’re morally bad if they don’t vote for the blue rapist. That’s how you get all these motivated leftists thinking, what the fuck do I do now? That’s how you get people throwing up their hands and bailing on the political realm altogether. It’s how you get people thinking politics is just voting. That’s how you get black, transgender, and disabled comrades feeling like they have no place in the movement aside from occasionally being some sacrificial pawn so we can maintain an alliance with capital.

For more, read The Tactic of the United Front and How it Differs from the Popular Front (pdf) by Les Evans, and consider looking into a revolutionary socialist party, such as Socialist Resurgence. I also highly recommend you check out the article Corbynism Lost, Sandersism is Losing: Why Working Within Capitalist Parties Fails by Ezra Brain on Left Voice.

Tasks and Perspectives

Global Working Class Unity!

With the global mobilization of the working classes of the world we see growing evidence of global class consciousness. The persistent, yet hidden truth is that the foundation of our societies is built on working class labor. As global class agitation rises and mass organization demands that the workers of the world replace these oppressive and exploitative rulers, it becomes increasingly clear that we need global systemic changes. The old system must be uprooted and replaced with international socialism.

Throughout various periods of history, the proletariat workers have had opportunity to unite and overthrow their oppressive regimes. Yet their attempts were thwarted by docile workers willing to bargain with the ruling classes. These class traitors typically sympathized with their oppressors due to a variety of underhanded attempts by the ruling classes to confuse the workers class interest with their own, primarily through isolation, disorientation, and misdirection. This is often accomplished by increasing the availability of aesthetical aspects of bourgeois life, pushing a false media narrative, and eliminating channels of communication between comrades. For example, the archetypal white American suburb of the 1950s physically and ideologically seperated this so-called “middle class” from other workers. They could view themselves as homeowners, fundamentally different from urban renters. Homeowning pushed them to sympathize with the capital-owning classes, as they were encouraged to conflate personal property with private property (the means of production). Another example is fascistic ideaology that confuses ruling class antagonism with some ethnic, racial, or gender identity. The rulers with their monopoly on the means of production and their growing profits extracted from slavery, wage labor, and manufactured scarcity…this is not the problem, says fascism, it is “the Jews” or “the gypsies”—the mysterious other. Such a misdirection requires social isolation from this other, and a false understanding of one’s own class position.

The oppressors maintain control over the means of production, and subsequently our choices, tastes, and culture. They own and/or control all legitimate sources of news, media, and communication, allowing them to frame degrading material conditions as the fault of an other, and improving material conditions as the result of their own generosity and competence. They mute class consciousness, yet their efforts are losing effectiveness. The global proletariat have an opportunity to evolve this exploitative system if we can ward off false consciousness. With the threat of growing environmental disaster, this becomes increasingly crucial that we spread class consciousness and unite with our fellow proletariat comrades from all over the world. We cannot let ignorance pull workers towards becoming self-destructive class traitors, who protect the ruling capitalist class due to a false understanding of class and their own class position.

Under our current global economic system, ecological collapse is inevitable. The future well-being of humanity and our environment requires change through class consiousness. It require active organization. It requires these things on a global-scale. With that, I assert with urgency, workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose, but your chains.