Saturday, February 21, 2015

“NO SELL OUT!” MALCOLM X’S SPIRIT LIVES ON!

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation... It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of black against white, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.” – Malcolm X

Today makes it exactly 50years that Malcolm X was brutally killed as he prepared to address a session of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) at the 400-person capacity-filled Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, New York. Till date, the conspiracy behind this dastardly assassination of one of this impressive revolutionary described as “our shining black prince” at his funeral is yet to be unravelled. But his exemplary life continues to inspire millions of young and old black people in particular and people of all races in general, across the world.

There are lessons to be learnt from his inspiring life and struggle, for activists today. The recent wave of #blacklivesmatter in the wake of killings of young black people across several cities in the United States, point at the fact that racism remains institutionalised in that supposed bastion of liberal democracy. It is equally instructive that on one hand the resident of White House in Washington is a black Obama. On the other hand, all the victims of racist attacks were from poor working class backgrounds.

This goes to underscore the intertwined nature of racist oppression and class exploitation. Rich black people who being part of the system see their interest as primarily to defend it were described by Malcolm X as the “house nigger” ever so concerned with the slave master’s health and wellbeing. The poor working wage-slave, unemployed youth, and urban poor were and still are the “field niggers” who can liberate themselves only by bringing the reign of the bosses, the slave-masters to an end “by the ballot or the bullet”. More often than not, we could argue, with both as tactics within the strategy of mass revolts; revolution from below.

The incisive life of Malcolm X underscores the “bundle of contradictions” we all are and how in working with and for the people to help bring about the poor’s self-emancipation we transform both such mass movements that we are part of and ourselves get transformed. It is thus to a brief presentation of this that we turn at this point, as we remember Malcolm X, and walk in the shining light of this exemplar.

The Life & Times of Malcolm Omowale X
Born Malcolm Little as the fourth out of seven children on May 19, 1925 at Omaha, Nebraska in the United States of North America, Brother Malcolm X faced the bitter destructiveness of white supremacists, and had his earliest Black Nationalist inspiration, through his father, Earl Little. Earl was a disciple of the maverick lodestone for black repatriation; Marcus Mossiah Auerilius Garvey.

Earl Little who was a Baptist minister, was also a local leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which Marcus Garvey established in 1914. He and his family suffered immensely as a result of this, from the hands of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the Black Legion which was a breakaway group from the murderous racist KKK. Despite relocating first to Wisconsin and later to Michigan, these two groups kept up a barrage of attacks against the Little family: burning their homes to the ground; killing three of Earl’s brothers who were also Black Nationalists, and; continually harassing Earl, his wife Louise as well as Malcolm and his siblings.

Eventually, Earl Little was murdered by white supremacists suspected to be members of the notorious Black Legion. The insurance companies declared that this obvious killing was suicide, using that as an excuse to short change Louise and the family regarding payments of the life insurance policy Earl had taken. The family went through hard times. Malcolm and his brothers had to hunt for game to feed the family, while the mother rented out the home’s garden area to raise money for other commodities. Eventually, when Brother Malcolm was just 13years old, Louise suffered a nervous breakdown and was remanded in the Kalamazoo State Hospital where she would be till Malcolm and his siblings could secure her release 24years later.

With this troubled background, it is not surprising that the young Malcolm turned to crime, to survive. Relocating to the ghetto of Harlem, he peddled dope, gambled, pimped, burgled and robbed. But even at this point in time, when Malcolm was yet to be fully radicalised as a Black Nationalist, the main targets of his crimes were wealthy white people. He did not want to make the hell that was living for poor black people worse, in his own desperate and criminal efforts to survive.

Malcolm eventually got arrested in 1946 when he went to a repair shop to pick an expensive broken down watch that he wanted to fix before selling, and was sentenced to jail for eight-to-ten years, for larceny and breaking and entry, at the Charlestown State Prison. Like many great men, imprisonment marked a turning point in his life.

While in prison, Malcolm developed an insatiable appetite for reading after meeting John Bembry, a self-educated intellectual, who was also a convict. This was also where he converted to Islam and became a member of the Nation of Islam in 1948. Reginald, one of his brothers who had become a member of the Nation, helped to convert him. Members of the Nation of Islam at this point in time were radical Black Nationalists. They rejected Christianity as the religion of the whites which had been used to enslave black men and women. This is not unlike Bishop Desmond Tutu’s anecdote that when whites came to Africa with the bible, they asked us to close our eyes to pray. But when we opened our eyes, we were holding the bible and they had our lands firmly in their hands. For many in the Nation, their turn to Islam was thus a mark of defiance.

In 1950, Malcolm started addressing himself as Malcolm X, saying that: "For me, my 'X' replaced the white slave master name of 'Little' which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears." This was similar to Fela’s dropping the slaver’s name of Ransome for Anikulapo some two decades after this.

Two years later, Malcolm X was paroled. Immediately he stepped out of jail, he commenced a life dedicated to struggle for poor black people’s emancipation. In this struggle for freedom, he persevered to his last breath.

Due to his astounding capacity to organise and his powerful speaking ability, Elijah Mohammed who was the leader of the Nation of Islam made Malcolm X a Minister.  He served in this capacity across several Temples of the group. His most spectacular success at helping to build the Nation was when he served as Minister of Temple Number 7 in Harlem. Within 12 years Malcolm X’s sterling role resulted in the growth of the Nation of Islam’s membership from just 4,000 to over 40,000 persons! He was always on the road or delivering lectures or organising other Black Nationalist programmes on behalf of the Nation.

It was during one of such lectures that he met Betty Sanders in 1955. They got married in January 1958 and had six beautiful daughters. His family faced an avalanche of harassments and attacks including death threats and the burning down of their home. Unfortunately, this was not only from white supremacists.

Malcolm X’s rising popularity, sincerity and unalloyed commitment to the cause of revolutionary struggle made Elijah Mohammed very uncomfortable. Despite his rhetoric, Mohammed was not averse to some compromises with the system as reflected in his consolation of the American state when President John Kennedy was assassinated, which Malcolm X described as “the chickens coming home to roost”. He also did not walk his talk. Contrary to the strict moral code of the Nation, he had been sleeping with his secretaries, many of whom bore him children.

With this situation, Malcolm X had to break with the Nation of Islam at the beginning of 1964. In his last year on earth, Elijah Mohammed and his followers hounded Malcolm X and his family as much, if not worse than white supremacist groups did. But did this not slowdown Malcolm X who rather redoubled his commitment to winning respect, self-pride and liberation for oppressed black people “by any means necessary”.

After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X established the Organization of Afro-African Unity (OAAU) based on a Pan-Africanist ideology. This was just a year after independent states in Africa had formed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at Addis-Ababa. OAU recognised Malcolm X’s OAAU inviting Brother Malcolm as the leader of the organization to the 2nd OAU summit at Cairo in 1964.

He was in Africa twice, in 1959 and 1964, visiting several countries each time. On both occasions, he was in Nigeria. During his second visit to the country which was widely covered in the electronic and print media, Brother Malcolm X was given a Yoruba name, “Omowale” (trans: “the child comes home”) after delivering a lecture at the University of Ibadan. He described this as the greatest honour ever bestowed on him: to at last have a truly African name!

Alas! Just months after this, on February 21, 1964, Brother Malcolm Olawale X was gunned down in cold blood with 21 gunshot wounds on his chest, left shoulder, arms and legs as well as buckshot wounds from the shaved-off shot gun with which the first salvo of death was rained on this great revolutionary who never ceased to walk his talk.

While the exact circumstances surrounding the planning and execution of his assassination still remain shrouded in mystery, a few things are clear. First, the hand of the Nation of Islam can be seen in it. The three identified gunmen; Talmadge Hayer now known as Mujahid Halim (who was beaten to pulp before the police arrived by angry OAAU members), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (Butler), Norman 3X and Thomas 15X Johnson, were all members of the group. They were tried and jailed. But they have all been paroled, the first three in 1987 and Hayer in 2010. Second, the government of the United States is equally not innocent. Malcolm X was a threat to the stability of the capitalist system as a whole with his revolutionary message of mass action and self-defence. And quite interestingly, it was subsequently revealed that John Ali who was the National Secretary of the Nation of Islam at the time and who played a significant role in driving a wedge between Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammed had been an FBI agent all along!

Lessons for Activists in Today’s World of Crises & Revolts
Malcolm X’s great life holds so many lessons for us in our struggle for self-emancipation and the building of a new world on the ashes of the current degenerate and anti-poor people capitalist system that has thrown humankind and planet earth into a state of perennial crises.

The first is that, we must always persevere. “Freedom cometh by struggle” as an a luta song goes. The fight for a better world is not a sprint; it is a series of marathons. Virtually all rights we take for granted today were won because activists spurred the masses in ages past to wage relentless class war against the ruling class who always want to hold us back. Few recall that the “civil rights movement” emerged during Malcolm X’s generation because of segregation and the denial of blacks of the right to vote. But the American state did not grant the limited demands of this movement simply because they were made. They realised that holding back on these was a contributory factor in the radicalisation of the movement as well, by revolutionary forces represented by Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Students Non-Violent Coordinating Council, Congress for Racial Equality, etc.

Second is the need for us persistently seek knowledge for “knowledge is power”. Malcolm X could play the role history foisted on him, precisely because he had started to become a reading man. We cannot be great leaders as activists, if we are not great readers. The quest for knowledge can be partly satiated through reading, to a great extent. But the biggest university in the world is that of life. We must continue to learn to know from our triumphs and our defeats, our joys and our travails. In this lies great strength. The guardians of the capitalist system realise this. They thus have no problem with citizens increasing knowledge so long as this is within the context they define. You see this in the curricular of schools where pupils are taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America and Mungo Park discovered River Niger as if human beings were not living in these supposedly “discovered” places before the oyinbo man came. We need to expand our counter-systemic knowledge. It is through such that we can rise above ideological incorporation.

Third, we can always grow beyond the limitations of our past, no matter how bad this has been. Malcolm Little became a criminal, even if this was due to the constraints of hardships. He was never ashamed of admitting this, as the past of Malcolm X, because he rose above this to the heroic heights of commitment to the noble cause of struggle for a more just world based on the self-emancipation of exploited and oppressed people, particularly for him and justly so, African-Americans.

Fourth, it is not enough to espouse our belief that the world should and could be better, with social justice and equality being the norm. We must organise on the basis of this belief, and propagate our ideology to larger circles of those enchained by the system, economically, politically and socio-culturally. The struggle for freedom is one that can be won only when we win millions enter the arena of political struggle to break their chains and win a new world, establishing a global socialist order.

Fifth, we must never lose sight of the multi-faceted nature of the forces that the poor working people are confronting. These include the state (governments, armies, police, prisons, courts etc and the international order of imperialism (manifested in the so-called “international community” politically and in the levers of international production and trade, economically). Essentially though, these different facets are all apparatus, mechanisms and structures of the bosses, the modern slave-masters i.e. capitalist overlords. The intertwined local, national and global nature of the system and its apparatus equally underscores the necessarily intertwined local, national and global nature of the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of capitalist slavery.

Further, as the hand of the Nation of Islam in the killing of Malcolm X shows us, there will equally always be enemies within. These are those Judases that the bosses will always use to try defeat the revolution from inside it. The assassinations of Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral and Thomas Sankara amongst others too numerous to count, follow the same trend. Eternal vigilance thus becomes a price the revolutionary movement must pay for its liberty.

Sixth and finally, we must never lose sight of the critical importance of revolutionary self-defence as Brother Malcolm X always stressed. It is true that despite his commitment to self-defence he was still killed. But if not for that, he could have been killed even much earlier. But beyond self-defence in the personal sense, Malcolm X’s message captured the need for the revolution to defend itself if it is not to be smashed before its consummation. To overthrow the capitalist system, the working masses’ uprising must include self-defence militias and our triumph must result in the disbanding of specialised bands of armed men (the army, police, etc) and their replacement with the armed people. Inkling of this can be garnered in the emergence of the Civilain JTF in the north east.

As we remember Malcolm X, 50 years after his assassination, we must redouble our efforts in fighting against our exploiters and oppressors, irrespective of the colours of their skins. Another world is indeed possible and it will emerge through our revolutionary struggle ideologically, politically and organisationally. The working people united and determined cannot be defeated.

Long live Malcolm X!
Long live the Revolution!!

We shall overcome!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

UAD PRESS STATEMENT 2015 ELECTION: A QUESTIONABLE EXTENSION! AGAINST PARTISAN TOYING WITH NIGERIA!! THE MILITARY MUST NOT BE TEMPTED!!!

Prof Attahiru Jega, Chairman INEC
The postponement of the 2015 general elections by INEC throws up more questions than answers. The Commission had repeatedly insisted that it was ready to conduct the elections as hitherto scheduled. Even as Prof Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman announced the postponement, he placed the burden of such decision mainly on those ingredients necessary for free, fair and credible elections which are beyond the control of INEC. It is however a statement of fact that INEC started the issuance of PVCs rather late in the day providing a foothold for adventurists keen on manipulating the electoral process for their self-serving interests.

It is now clear that, this postponement is premeditated. When the kite was first flown by Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the National Security Adviser at a discussion session in Chatham House, United Kingdom, the presidency gave the impression that it was Col. Sambo’s personal opinion. The main reason he latched on to was distribution of the PVCs. As he lamented, if barely 30million PVCs had been distributed in a year, how would the remaining 30million PVCs be distributed in just 2 weeks?
  
The more worrying of the reasons given for the postponement is the war in the north east. The Defence Headquarters letter calling for a shift in the elections date because of an offensive against Boko Haram is nothing short of the military bosses overtly meddling in politics. With the debauched history of military incursion into the polity, United Action for Democracy condemns this in the strongest of terms.

It needs to be asked how Nigerians are expected to believe that an insurgency that could not be curtailed in six years would all of a sudden be curtailed in six weeks. Further, we can loudly hear the voice of Jacob even if the hand appears to be that of Esau. It would seem that an embattled presidency is using the military’s monkey hands to draw out its chestnut from the fire, hoping to better its lot at the polls by buying time.


United Action for Democracy is the pan-Nigerian coalition of radical civil society organisations with affiliates and state chapters across the length and breadth of the country. We were central to the mass struggles that drew the curtains on military rule in the 1990s and we will not fold our hands to allow the military back in power as an institution. We would advise those sections of the ruling class that think they can and might be using the military top brass to desist. Those who ride on the backs of tigers quite often end up in their stomachs. Unfortunately, the fate of 170 million Nigerians, the immense majority of who are poor working people that have nowhere to run to, hangs in the balance as well.

UAD is a political organisation. But we are fiercely non-partisan, having no illusion in either of the leading parties of the bosses. Our stand is thus not one in defence of any other party. We call for sober reflections to guide strategies and tactics that all political formations would commit to at this moment. We must avoid playing into the hands of the military. If however despite everything we are taken down that dark, bleak road of khaki and jackboots once again, the working masses will vehemently fight back. As we stated in our press statement of November 13, 2014: THE MASSES WILL RESIST ANY COUP!!!

It is instructive that coup d’├ętats have always been prompted by sections of the civilian wing of the ruling class as much as by those of them in the military’s top echelons. It is horrendous that those who have been powerless in addressing the FGN vs Boko Haram war where poor working people have been the main casualties can now flex their sinewy muscles in foisting a postponement of the general elections on Nigerians, in a manner that could lead to chaos haven bred distrust at an incendiary moment in the nation’s history.

UAD calls on all Nigerians to remain steadfast in our democratic struggle to change the system and build a better society where the social wealth will benefit all and governance will indeed be by the people and for the people, as it is of the people. We will organise, mobilise and help unite the poor working people to resist being used as cannon fodder in the struggle of the rich, high and might to win or retain power. A people united and determined, cannot be defeated.

We shall overcome!
We are not afraid!!

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Baba Aye

National Convenor

UAD SOLIDARITY MESSAGE To the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as it holds its 11th National Delegates Conference

The United Action for Democracy salutes Nigerian workers on the occasion of the 11th National Delegates Conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) taking place at the Abuja International Conference Centre, on February 9-11, 2015. The trade union movement has been a force for improving the working and living conditions of the working people, and for the deepening of democracy, from the period of anti-colonial struggle to the current era of neoliberal capitalism.

This delegates’ conference is coming at a crucial moment for the working class globally and in Nigeria. The worldwide crisis of the capitalist system which started in 2007 has not abated. The bosses have been doing all they can to make the poor working people bear the burden of attempts to kick start an elusive recovery. Austerity measures are their infamous solution, which have however only made life worse for the immense majority of the human race while the wealth of the few rich and powerful has increased such that today, 66 persons own as much as half of the 7billion people on earth own.

Coming closer home, the global crisis is now imparting gravely on the economy through the channel of a sharp fall (of over 50%) of oil prices. The federal government’s official turn to a pathway of austerity does not bode well for the working class. The polity equally sits on a keg of gunpowder as the most keenly contested presidential elections ever has polarised public opinion further with the recent shift in the dates of the general elections.

All these underline the critical role of leadership which the NLC (and the Trade Union Congress) have to bring to bear in the unfolding period, for the defence of workers’ rights and in pursuit of the goal of social transformation. The gamut of motions being proposed to the Congress-in-session for resolution reflects the trade unions understanding of the challenges ahead. The need to: combat casualisation; voluntary merge unions for them to become stronger; forge closer relations with the civil society movement; fight for more and decent jobs, and; deepen international working class solidarity, for example are indeed very germane, at this point in time.


United Action for Democracy, the pan-Nigerian coalition of radical civil society organisations supports the revitalisation of the trade union movement which the consummation of these motions in practice would bring about. We seize this opportunity to stress that, in our own humble opinion, consistent mass mobilisation along the lines of social movement unionism would be pivotal to ensuring such consummation of the laudable goals that NLC appears set to pursue over the next four years.

We equally urge NLC to revert back to the its subsisting “Labour and Politics” policy as ratified by its 8th National Delegates Conference in 2003 to build a workers’ party on the basis of a socialist programme. The Labour Party as it is today, does not and cannot represent Nigerian workers. Its politics and ideology are no different from those of the bosses. Thus, it can only help to further the continued exploitation of the working people by the ruling class, rather than serve as a spear in the hands of the oppressed, to break their chains and “bring to birth a new world on the ashes of the old” as the words of Solidarity Forever acclaims.

 UAD was formed at a period when the NLC’s national structures had been proscribed by the General Sani Abacha junta. Since the “new beginning” of organised labour in 1999, in the wake of the reinstatement of civil rule, UAD activists have maintained a robust relationship with NLC at the barricades, in the struggle of the working people against injustice and unpopular policies of the bosses.

As NLC rejuvenates itself at this historic Congress to better face the battles that lie ahead, UAD pledges its comradely solidarity. We shall criticise in good faith where we sincerely find actions of Congress questionable in our view, as we did after the January 2012 general strike was called off mid-stream. But we shall never lose sight of the commonality of our aim for system change and the leading role of the working class in achieving this. The working people united and determined cannot be defeated.

Long live NLC!
Long live UAD!!
Forward to system change!!!



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Baba Aye

National Convenor

Thursday, February 5, 2015

REST IN POWER, RASTA!

Comrade Femi Olabisi (Rasta Paul): 19/1/1969 - 5/2/2015
I still feel numb from learning that Femi Olabisi lost the battle for life this morning. My longest standing political collaborator and soul mate “Rasta Paul” was a fighter and fought his last battle gallantly....against high blood pressure that had assailed him with “stroke”, twice over the past 3 years.

When I saw him two weeks back at Enugu during our union’s 40th National Executive Council meeting, he acknowledged that his health had taken a turn for the worse, but that he would win the battle for life. Alas...Rasta is now gone!

Born on January 19, 1969, Femi who hailed from Ogbomosho, Oyo state, spent most of his life in Lagos, particularly in the Agege/Abule Egba axis. He attended Vetland High School where he sat for his WAEC in 1986.

I met him sometime in 1987, while I was pursuing my A’Levels at Anwar’ul Islam College. I and Femi Olatunji (“Dudusky”) who was on the College’s football team went to visit Femi Fadeyi another wonderful footballer who is now a leading actor/director of Yoruba films. Fadeyi was ill and had missed classes for some days. Rasta Paul who had come to see Fadeyi was seated on the low fence, strumming some reggae vibes with his guitar. He had the red, the gold and the green all emblazoned on him; wristband; necklace; jersey and; cap.

I was then a Rastafarian adept myself. We ended up spending hours together that day, reasoning together and sharing joints. A friendship of a lifetime was born.

We formed a two-man band which we called Haclus. But Femi Fadeyi (also a musician) and members of his funk band Wetlands, used to call our band “OsamAyes”. Femi was then known as Rasta Sam Paul (from which the “sam” was drawn) and of course, the Ayes was from Babs Aye, as I was then called.

We were not just musicians. We soaked up the works of Nkrumah, Nyerere, Cabral, Mandela, Cesaire, Fanon etc, and formed the African Liberation Movement (ALM) which was meant to be a clandestine “politico-military” organisation. Months later, I proceeded to Unilorin and Femi to Yabatech. Other members we’d recruited headed to Ife, Ibadan and KwaraTech. We charged ourselves with seeking like minds and consolidating ALM.

It was in the course of doing just that in Ilorin that I became a Marxist. I established Black Starliners reggae club as a front and identified the more political elements that came into it. In an attempt to recruit Bimbo “O” and Bayo “Nameless”, the later gave me a copy of Engels Socialism: Utopian and Scientific tract. This was after I condemned “socialism” which he had propounded earlier in response to the ALM’s black nationalist perspectives I raised with him, arguing that we could all see how oppressive life was in the USSR, but we stand for liberation.

Haven been convinced from Engels on what socialism actually is as against the monstrosity behind the Iron Curtain, I immediately reached out to Rasta with quite a pile of books when I visited Lagos a few weeks later. We thus moved forward again, together. We were together on the streets on May 31, 1989 when the anti-SAP revolts reached its peak. Immediately Unilorin was shut down a few days earlier, I moved to the capital of the working masses Lagos and it was to Rasta then at Yabatech that I first went before moving to Dudusky’s folks place when the arrests started

In 1990/91, I was one of the five persons that formed the May 31st Movement in Ilorin. Ideas from ALM including being a “politico-military” organisation were part of the founding principles of M31M. Not surprisingly, Rasta Paul was the first person to join outside Ilorin. I went to Lagos and we discussed about the new group around about midnight at the sports complex. Rasta Paul came from Lagos for the M31M’s first National General Coordinating Council meeting (the White House Conference, because it took place at the White House hotel in Sawmill) at Ilorin in September that year. The following month I moved to Unilag and together we began building Mayism in earnest, in Lagos.

I’ve hardly met a more tireless organiser than Rasta Paul. Very meticulous, almost to a fault, he was the more “practical” one. I would come up with some at times over ambitious schema for organisational development and “cadrerization”. Rasta would not say no. In fact he would start with “well, it’s actually a very good idea, but...” and point by point he would show the shortcomings of the idea. If I felt strongly about going ahead all the same, he would be there, with his stubborn “let’s go there” approach. Sometimes it would work out, sometimes it wouldn’t.

At Unilag we built the League of Black Nationalists together as the front of the M31M. This was after our efforts to revitalise the PYMN’s Marxist-Leninist Study Group (MLSG) and the then LM’s Socialist Youth League (SYL) towards uniting both to form a League of Progressives for Emancipation (LoPE....with the slogan, struggle LoPE) fell apart. We revitalised both and then their “owners” moved in from town to reassert the tendential lines of the past.

When LBN was formed, Segun Imana, the first recruit of the M31M in ’92 was coordinator and I was secretary. Shortly after he graduated from the Law faculty and till Rasta graduated in ’95, he served as secretary whilst I was president. Every Wednesday we would hold discussion sessions at the Faculty of Education and leadership meetings every Monday. Our The Black Nationalist organ was always pasted on the notice boards of all halls and faculties religiously every week by Rasta.
LBN became the leading Left force on campus, extending into nearby schools like the FCET Akoka and Project Time (a catholic church-owned College of Education also at Akoka). The League’s candidate Omoyele Sowore who now runs Sahara Reporters won the ’92 elections against the old Left and other forces in one of the most interesting students’ union elections of that era. LBN was also the force behind the victory of Malcolm Fabiyi (Malcolm X) and his “No Sell Out!” campaign in ’94.

Unfortunately, Rasta’s interest to become the Secretary General during the ’92 elections failed as did his subsequent bid to become Clerk of the ULSU Parliament. But this did not in any way dissuade him from being at the fore of defending the League line.

Rasta Paul served in what is now Gombe state. His penchant for organising was not in at all doused by the service year’s distractions. The first steps at forming the Youth Front (YF) started then.

YF was Rasta’s baby and one of the longest lasting of the many organisations he helped to found. At its peak, YF had hundreds of members across states in all the six geo-political zones of the country. Its periodical Youth Frontier was equally well circulated. Unfortunately, YF also represented his gradual disaffection with the “Left ghetto” of small sects and a turn to active participation in bourgeois politics. Like us all, Femi was a bundle of contradictions. Despite this, he was very active in the life of the Mayist trend till 2011....and was about coming back much more fully, until death cut short this remarkable life.

Rasta Paul was convinced of the centrality of political power for bringing about social change. He believed that political power required mass membership and participation. This led to the illusion that much could be gotten through entrism in the parties of the bosses. In ‘97/’98, he threw in his lot with the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) during the truncated and questionable transition programme of General Abacha. He ran, for the first time, for the Lagos state House of Assembly. He did not win, coming second to the UNCP’s candidate. But he established himself as a grassroots mobilise and community leader in his Abule Egba area constituency.

After the restoration of the Republic in 1999, he joined the Alliance for Democracy. The powers that be did not feel comfortable with his strong loyalist following and did everything possible for him not to attain his heart’s desire to be part of the Lagos state’s legislative house. Femi’s organising prowess was brought to bear within the house of the bosses’ party where he was. He formed the Golden Frontiers which became a powerful caucus and challenged many that were considered to be untouchables due to their closeness with Tinubu and Aregbesola. Several times Aregbe tried to neutralise him first by fighting him and subsequently by courting him.

In 2007, when he was undemocratically denied the ticket in the then AC, he joined Tokunboh Afikuyomi in crossing over to the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) where he ran for the same office and once again lost. As at the time we met last talking for hours until I noticed he was weak and asked him to rest, he told me that he was likely to get an appointment after the elections. He had committed over a N100,000 to the party candidate for the seat, with the state of his health he said he did not have the strength to fight at primaries again.

Rasta Paul’s dabbling into bourgeois politics did not debar him from work within the working class and the tendency’s organisational life. He began work as a fulltime secretary of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria in September 2000, in time to be a delegate to the 6th MHWUN National Delegates Conference which held that same month in Ibadan, the rustic city where Femi would die 15 years later. In that period, Rasta Paul served as a MHWUN organiser in: Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Lagos and Oyo states. He also acted as Head of the Education, Planning, Research & Statistics department for the almost 3 years I was away from MHWUN (first on a study leave and subsequently on secondment to the NLC).

In all these stations, Femi left commendable footprints. He built MHWUN structures and was always a leading, critical figure in the Joint Negotiating Council (Trade Union Side) and the Nigeria Labour Congress. He also built his YF structures in virtually all these states. His penchant for documentation led him to writing a pamphlet Oyo State Workers’ 15% Salary Increase Struggle 2007: Analysis, Minutes & Materials, which provides invaluable insight from his vantage position during that struggle as the Oyo state/South West Zonal Secretary of MHWUN in Ibadan, during that struggle.

He actually challenged me to write my first book Era of Crises & Revolts stressing that it is not enough to have papers, leaflets and all such like “practical” literature, we owe it a responsibility to posterity to churn out books with the insights we have from practical struggles, he kept hammering at me, till I agreed and took up the challenge in 2012, after the January revolts.

In the Mayists’ years of the locusts of the mid-2000s when the M31M, by then renamed as the Socialist Workers Movement, he always rebuffed my calls for us to reinvigorate the “Movement”. He would say that organisations are vehicles and you do change vehicles when their life spans are through, especially when some of those that insist on being on the earlier vehicle with you are actually holding onto the vehicles tires or worse, trying to make the engine “knock”.

But in 2008/2009 when a rebirth was in the offing, Rasta was at the fore of activities to ensure things worked out well. In Abuja where he was at the MHWUN National Secretariat, he became the backbone of the old SWM’s organisational life. He was initially cautious about merging with the Socialist League. But once convinced that they were not “like those people that JG brought us into alliance with to form the CWA in 1993 and who almost scattered our house with old wives’ tales”, he did everything possible to ensure a methodical merger process. He made the offices of his Rasta Records label available for organisational meetings in Lagos whilst in Abuja he helped fund activities and as well took up active roles in these.

A key step in the methodical approach he called for towards the merger was the August 2010 Memorandum of Agreement on the merger which the Abuja branch came up with at his instance. Most of the Memorandum’s positions were pushed by him including the need for an expansive Central Committee. The old SWM CC adopted it after being widely circulated amongst members and considered apt. This was dispatched to the SL which also accepted it.

At the merger conference on January 29, 2011, elements of the memorandum were jettisoned, including: an expansive CC, and; initiating a programme that would lead to the organisation being birthed becoming a registered political party that could stand for elections in the nearest future. The majority of delegates were of the view that the CC be compact and with regards to the SWL that emerged from the merger becoming a party anytime soon, the general view was of this being rather over-ambitious.

While he never renounced his membership, including supporting the League where he could, Rasta withdrew from active tendential life. A very stubborn son of a gun, all my entreaties fell on deaf ears. In fact for a brief while, our personal relations were strained. He couldn’t understand how I could have eventually taken up the majority view despite the August Memorandum’s general acceptance. I did convince him though that there was no underhanded understanding and my commitment was simply to ensuring that the new organisation takes off on a firm basis of Conference resolutions. Thus, as I argued (which he accepted but would not go along with), the resolve of Congress was superior to any earlier Memorandum.

Then came the final battle of his life....which eventually took this very life away. He had the first stroke in 2012. The following year, he had the second stroke. That was when he realised that the drugs he got from a general hospital after the first stroke, to manage his high blood pressure had actually expired before it was prescribed! As if things were not bad enough, domestic blows also hit him. An acrimonious split with his partner, who left with their four daughters, was followed months later with the death of his mother, whom he was very close to.
Rasta Paul took all these with philosophical equanimity. Despite his state of health, he also expressed his desire to get more active in the organisation’s life. He proposed the organising of weekly Workers Educational Forums in Ibadan, which he was prepared to fund. His long standing influence in the working class movement there would as well have been invaluable for this project. He had won a number of trade union leaders to this idea at state council and shop floor level.

The project could not commence before the end of 2014 due to his ill health. The Oyo state contingent arrived pretty late at Enugu on January 12. They stayed at Tommylyn hotel where the Women Leadership Workshop I was facilitating was taking place. As soon as I arrived there, Comrade Ayobami, the state chairman informed me that “your brother’s health is pretty bad”. I had to leave the workshop appealing to Comrade Eris Ibi the Deputy Chairperson of the National Women Commission to stand in for me. We spent almost three hours talking. One of the main points we discussed was the need for him to make peace with Sola, his partner. He agreed to do this.

Unfortunately, that and all the dreams and goals Rasta still had in mind have come to an abrupt end. He died this morning, alone when the grim reaper came calling. I actually wonder how I have been able to write this through the hail of mist before me. For once, not even the rolling out of Socialist Worker from the press can lift my spirit. I have lost a brother, a friend, a comrade. The working class has lost one of its most committed and very dogged organisers. Mayism has lost one of its most thorough historical cadre.


Good night Sam Paul......Rest in Power, Rasta!

Monday, January 19, 2015

GATHERING OF OMINOUS CLOUDS! THE RICH MOVE FAMILIES ABROAD!! WE ARE ALL BAGA!!!*

As the February 14 elections draw nearer it becomes clearer that there are two classes of Nigerians; the rich who milk the country’s wealth and set it ablaze and the poor whom they see merely as milk cows and cannon fodder. Recent media reports that politicians and bosses of big businesses are moving their families abroad (particularly to the United States, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates) present a grave cause for concern in this direction. It is equally a pointer to the palpable possibility of severe national crisis in the wake of the elections.

United Action for Democracy denounces this flight of the rich whilst they contrive an inflammable conundrum for the poor. UAD equally finds it worrisome that thousands of “non-indigenes” have also had to relocate back to their states and zones of origin out of fear of the possible aftermath of February 14. These are evidently ominous signs. This is the time for working people and their organisations to stand up against the destructive manipulations of the ruling elites.

UAD was forged as the leading pan-Nigeria coalition of radical civil society organisations at a moment like this in 1997, then against military dictatorship. The civilian wing of the ruling class has proven itself to be little more democratic than the military that we fought tooth and nail against to reinstate the republic. Democracy goes beyond the right to vote in one section of the bosses or another. For it to have much meaning to the poor working masses, it must entail the building of popular structures of people’s power, through which workers, farmers, artisans, the urban poor, women, youth and all other strata of the immense majority of the population are central to the running of social life.

None of the leading parties in contention represents this concept of working people’s democracy which the UAD stands for. Their readiness (across party lines) to relocate their families out of harm’s way, while they stoke the embers of a catastrophe also shows their oft trumpeted “patriotism” for the ruse it is. They are not worth dying for.

The total lack of concern for the tragic loss of possibly 2,000 lives in Baga is a reflection of the politicians’ contempt for the lives of poor Nigerians. While President Goodluck Jonathan has remained shamefacedly mute, the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation has merely called for “soothing words of compassion and empathy” for the people of Baga and Borno state, in what appears basically as partisan brickbat.

UAD seeks a more cogent response to the Baga massacre and the war between Boko Haram and the Federal Government. Reports from affiliates and the State Chapter  of the UAD in Borno state indicate that the situation is getting worse by the day. President Jonathan’s silence on the abduction of the Chibok Girls Secondary School pupils during his first visit (and obviously one intended to make electoral gains), since the abduction is for residents of Borno and indeed all well meaning persons a confirmation of the disdain of Nigeria’s “big men” and rulers for the poor.

Enough is definitely enough! Baga represents the prospects poor working people face as the rich gladiators battle for Aso Rock in a few weeks time. We must refuse to be deceived into lining up behind the backs of any of them to kill fellow poor people irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or partisan affiliation. The most cogent response to the drumbeats of war that politicians are beating but will choose not to dance themselves can come only from us; through our independent, united self-activity based as working people.

UAD affiliates and State Chapters across the country have been mandated to work closely with trade unions and other civil society organisations to build this popular response from below, against the machinations of the bosses and politicians. We must have no illusions, dark clouds lie ahead. But if we, the masses, whose labour creates the social wealth, stand united, we will weather the storm and bring to birth a new Nigeria from the ashes of the old. Indeed, a new and better Nigeria is possible!  


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Baba Aye

National Convenor

*being a press statement issued by the United Action for Democracy on January 18, 2015