Reviving Popular Action for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria

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In 2019, Social Action and its solidarity partners mobilised civic constituencies against the increasing assault on freedom of expression and democracy in Nigeria. Throughout the year, the country experienced shrinking of the civil spaces reminiscent of the dark days of military dictatorship. There was an escalation of state impunity and brazen disrespect for the rule of law in the country as exemplified by the detention of journalists, pro-democracy and anti-corruption activists in defiance of court orders. Thus, Social Action and its collaborators: the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and other partners, Civic Media Lab (CML), Coalition For Revolution (CORE), Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), The Difference Newspaper and Sahara Reporters, supported by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, organised the second edition of the Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference, which was convened as a platform for pro-democracy activists, social justice advocates and organic scholars in Nigeria to examine the democratic practices in Nigeria since 1999 and discuss options for positive civic engagement in politics; for promoting popular power and enthroning a representative and accountable government in Nigeria.

 

The well-attended conference which took place at the Osun Hall, Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on December 17, 2019, had the Theme: Reviving Popular Action for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria. The gathering witnessed presentations by various human rights activists, all of whom agreed that the country’s democracy was endangered and that there was an urgent need to revive pro-democracy movement with a view to stopping the encroaching dictatorship tendencies under President Muhammadu Buhari.

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In his opening remarks, Arochukwu Ogbonna who represented the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr Isaac Osuoka, noted that the shrinking civic and political space has led to a general state of insecurity in Nigeria and worsening social and economic conditions for the majority of citizens. Delivering the welcome address, co-convener of the conference, author and activist, Dr Chido Onumah who spoke on behalf of the organising partners, noted that the conference was put together to get people to speak with one voice on the many challenges confronting progressive movement in Nigeria, in particular, and the existential threat that millions of compatriots face on daily basis. The conveners recalled that the inaugural pro-democracy conference of December 2018, at the National Press Centre, Abuja, in the lead up to the 2019 general election, provided space for democracy activists to examine the state of the pro-democracy movement since the 1990s. The inaugural conference brought together veterans of the pro-democracy movement and younger activists and served as a platform for inter-generational dialogue on the movement of democracy in Nigeria and the state of the nation.

The conveners stressed the imperative of civic intervention of the pan-Nigerian character reminiscent of the 1990s pro-democracy movement. They noted that more people are living in extreme poverty in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world while violent conflicts are escalating.

Other activists, including Richard Mammah, publisher of the Difference Newspaper; Angela Odah; Prof Anthony Kila; Habib Dolapo; Wale Okunniyi, among others, took turns to speak on the state of affairs of the country with all of them in agreement to the urgent need to stop the encroaching fascism under the present leadership. In her remarks, Mrs. Odah, representative of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, said the conference was necessary to enable the participants add voice to the call for a stop to the encircling militarism in a democratic dispensation. She pointed out that the government of the day was using siting of projects and lopsided appointments to divide the country along ethnic and religious lines while encroaching on the rights and liberties of the citizens.

Delivering his keynote address titled: The Anti-Politics of the Buhari Administration, Dr Odion Silvester Akhaine warned that the country was heading to the point of no return.
He noted that the current leadership of the country has inflamed divisive tendencies and called for concerted effort to build alliances to save the country from collapse. He said that the legislature is a rubber stamp one, known in British history as the ‘Long Parliament’, a proxy of the executive who act in brazen compromise of parliamentary autonomy. The judiciary is peopled by political appointees without merit but programmed and intimidated to do the will of the executive. The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion during which members of the panel further dissected the issues and took questions from the audience.

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In a communique drafted at the end of the conference by Mr Obinna Ezugwu and read by Mr Otedola Adeola, the conference observed as follows:

  1. Nigeria is fast sliding into a fascist dictatorship.
  2. We are confronted with a government which has no regard for the rule of law.
  3. Court orders are being disobeyed with impunity. Journalists and activists are arrested and detained indiscriminately.
  4. Sahara Reporters publisher, Omowole Sowore, Olawale Bakare, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, among others, remain in detention despite court orders for their release. We also have journalists like Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri who are facing terrorism charges for simply doing their jobs. These are all testimonies to the shrinking of media and civil space in the country.
  5. The government proposed social media bill and hate speech bill are aimed at curtailing the freedom of expression of Nigerians.
  6. Even though the country now houses the highest number of poor people in the world, there is a bill called finance bill passed by the National Assembly awaiting the president’s assent. The essence of the bill is to force everyone, including the mass of unemployed Nigerians to pay more taxes. According to the bill, if you have no Tax ID, you can’t have a bank account. The government has also increased VAT, introduced POS charges, all of which are aimed at further impoverishing Nigerians to make more money available for the elite to loot. The minimum wage has yet to be implemented.
  7. In addition to several billions of dollars that it has borrowed, the government is now seeking to borrow another $30 billion while the bulk of the 2019 budget is to be borrowed. This is an attempt to plunge Nigeria into a debt crisis and leave a heavy debt burden on the future generation.
  8. It has become obvious that the Buhari government has no solution to the country’s economic and social problems. The despotic approach it deploys is only a decoy to take people’s attention away from the real issues of its failure.
  9. Part of the challenge facing the pro-democracy movement is that unlike during the military regime when we had a vibrant civil society when it was us against the military, we are facing a different challenge today. Politicians have succeeded in dividing us along ethnic and religious lines.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The current battle to reclaim Nigeria is complex. We need an alliance of forces that would lead to the formation of a radical pan-Nigerian organization, taking into consideration the nuances of the Nigerian situation.
  2. We must answer the question of the structure of the Nigerian state.
  3. We must all, as lovers of freedom and people who have the interest of the nation at heart, start organising to ensure that our democratic rights are protected.
  4. We must all begin to act, to organise in our different localities to stop the encroaching fascism. We must not rest until journalists, activists and other individuals jailed are released.
  5. No matter the differences we have, we must decide on a few things: accountability of those in power, regardless of who is in power. We must ensure that the right of minorities is protected and that our freedoms are guaranteed.
  6. We must revive and restructure pro-democracy organisations and use them to make our voices heard and sustain the tempo of our activism.
  7. The pro-democracy movement should stand in solidarity with student unions across the country in order to strengthen their activism. We should also stand strongly against the victimization of student union activists in our various universities.

Participants agreed that the pro-democracy conference should be held at least once every year as a rallying point for activists and citizen across the country to continue to uphold the tenets of democracy.

 

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY SYMPOSIUM IN BAYELSA STATE

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The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 10th of December every year for the annual celebration of International Human Rights Day. The date was chosen by the United Nations to honour the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

In Bayelsa State, a Symposium was organized by BANGOF in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission on the 10th Dec, 2019 to x-ray relationship between the respect for human rights, the fight against corruption and sustainable Development. The meeting provided a platform for key stakeholders including the chief Judge of Bayelsa state to discuss the fight against corruption and human rights abuses in the society. While giving his good will messages the Chief Judge of Bayelsa State drew a connecting streak between corruption and human rights abuse. He said corruption affects human rights directly and indirectly. According to him, corruption in the criminal justice system could deny a citizen fair hearing, thereby violating his fundamental right to a fair trial.  The request for money at the police station before one is released on bail is not only an act of corruption but also a violation of the rights of the victims to free bail.

Other contributors who presented their good will messages at the symposium also pointed to different instances were corruption has led to the infringement and denial of the rights of innocent citizens and even caused the death of many. It was unanimously agreed during the interactive session that every act of corruption leads either directly or indirectly to the denial of the rights of some people. One key lesson learned was that the Bayelsa public is tired of the corruptions and are willing to support the government and other stakeholders to eradicate it.

In a keynote delivered by the Attorney General of Bayelsa state on the theme “The role of young people in bringing human rights to life’’ he called on young people to demand for their rights and defend the rights of others especially the vulnerable in society. He also called on young people to resist the get rich quick mentality to avoid being caught in the traps of corruption.

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Representatives of the different government agencies at the symposium, in their good will messages, commended BANGOF and the National Human Rights Commission for the courage to organize activities to sensitize the public and the Government of Bayelsa state on the illness of corruption and human rights abuses in the society. They expressed their readiness and willingness to collaborate with all stakeholders to promote respect for Human Rights and public accountability in their spheres of responsibility.

 

 

Present at the meeting were the Chief judge of Bayelsa state represented by a Justice of the federal High court in Yenagoa, the Attorney General of the State, the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa state command and the Comptroller of Prisons, Bayelsa State. Other were the Commandant of Civil Defence Corps, Bayelsa Command, Federation of International Women Lawyer, FIDA, Bayelsa state chapter.

CIVIL RIGHT COUNCIL PAYS ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE OC LEGAL, STATE CID, PORT HARCOURT

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The frosty relationship that exits between the law enforcement agencies and the citizens has been one of the bane of the fight against crime. The citizens have continually accused the law enforcement agencies, especially the police of human right abuses while the police have decried the lack of cooperation from the citizens in fighting crime. The Civil Right Council has been involved in educating the people on their rights and responsibilities as citizens, on one hand, and also sensitizing the law enforcement agencies on the need to carry out their legitimate functions within the ambits of the law with respect to the rights of the people they are paid to protect on the other.

It is on this bases that the Civil Rights Council paid a courtesy visit to SP Gladys Enoho Imegu, the Officer in Charge of the Legal Department, State Criminal Investigation Department, Rivers State Police Command to work out a partnership between Civil Rights Council and the State Criminal Investigation Department.

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Executive Members of the CRC with the Officer in Charge of the Legal Department, State CID, Rivers State Police Command, SP Gladys Enoho Imegu

The meeting which took place on the 20th of December 2019, was partly to commend SP Gladys Imegu on the task she has been carrying out and also to sort the collaboration of her office in the speedy dispensation of justice especially in cases involving the violation of human rights.

While commenting on the evident impact SP Gladys have made in her three months in office, Mr. Prince Wiro highlighted the areas Civil Rights Council have had concerns in their interventions assignment and urged the OC Legal to aid the mandate of the organisation by ensuring that the Police follow due process and respect the rights of citizens.  Mr. Sebastian Kpalap and Miss. Mercy Christopher also emphasised the crucial role of a partnership between CRC and the Police in promoting human rights.

SP Gladys Enoho Imegu thanked the CRC delegation for the commendation and willingness to partner with her office. She noted that policing is a regimented job that requires officers to first of all be law abiding in order to appropriately execute their duties. She assured CRC of the cooperation of her office in curbing human rights abuses noting that her doors will always be wide open to entertain any matter that the CRC requires her attention on.

Civil Rights Council was represented by Mercy Christopher, Legal Advisor, Prince Wiro, Chairman, CRC , Sebastian Kpalap, President, CRC and Kelechi Uzoma, Secretary, CRC, Port Harcourt.

DISTRIBUTION OF ECO-FRIENDLY ENERGY MATERIALS TO DISPLACED PERSON IN MAIDUGURI, BORNO STATE

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The decade of violence conflict in the northeast region of Nigeria occasioned by climate change impact as well as the Boko Haram insurgency, has resulted in loss of lives, properties, means of livelihoods as well as general displacement among the citizens of the Sahel region. Ecological factors as a fundamental cause of displacement has resulted to severe pressure being placed on available resources such as trees in the bushes/forest, water bodies, lands etc thereby making lives unbearable for displaced persons across the region.

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Distributing fuel efficiency stoves and solar lamps to displaced persons in Maiduguri, Borno State

 

Access to energy is one of the major issues confronting millions of the displaced persons in IDPs camps across the northeast Nigeria. Based on an earlier commissioned Needs Assessment study carried out by Social Action and partners, household energy needs of displaced persons in camps both formal, informal and diffused are those associated with cooking, heating and lighting. Due limited resources such as wood and other alternative sources of energy, displaced persons faced the challenge of survival, threat to their existence and exposure to other security threats. In an effort to address these immediate challenges of the displaced persons, social action in September 2019 commenced the implementation of a multi-sectoral project in Borno which aimed at improving access to energy to the most vulnerable households with specific focus on distribution of efficiency cooking stoves and provision of solar lamps. The overall goal of the project was to contribute to human survival and the reduction of suffering via the provision of strategic, specific focused interventions programmes on livelihood and early recovery and energy access among internally displaced persons in informal camps and diffused communities in Borno state.

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To achieve the goal of this exercises, Social Action and partner in December 2019 embarked on preliminary activities of identifying, selecting and mobilizing beneficiaries of the intervention across three local government areas of Borno state which included Konduga, Jere and Maiduguri Metropolitan City (MMC). Over a period of one week, the project team took a tour of the nine communities across the three local government areas to mobilize stakeholders necessary for the implementation of the project. This included several meetings with community heads, IDPs representatives, women and youth groups as well as some security agents in those locations thereby creating opportunity to provide detailed information on the project goals and target as well as solicit for community support and buy-in. The tour to IDP communities and camps was also to identify possible volunteers who will be trained as human rights ambassadors to monitor and report on issues of human rights abuses in IDP camps.

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Based on the outcome of the preliminary activities, on 12th of December, Social Action and Greencode embarked on the registration of beneficiaries and distribution of efficiency cooking stoves and the solar lamps in line with a joint agreement with the community structures on the beneficiaries’ selection criteria A total of 80 households were registered and documented. Beneficiaries included Persons living with disability, or household with persons living with disability, Pregnant and lactating mothers, Household with large number of children under 5 years, Child or Female headed households and households that sleep without any form of lighting at night.  Between 16th and 20th of December, a total of 70 households from six communities across the 3 LGAs received/benefited from the distribution of the Fuelwood Efficient Cook Stoves (FES) and 60 solar lamps. Distribution is other areas are still ongoing.

THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2019 ACTIVITIES IN PORT HARCOURT

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Members of CRC Port Harcourt  at the workshop to mark the International Human Rights Day

The Civil Rights Council Workshop Held to Mark the International Human Rights Day

Civil Rights Council, Rivers state, on the 10th of December, 2019, conducted a workshop to mark the International Human Rights Day. The workshop which lasted for four hours was held at the Chima Ubani Centre, Port Harcourt, with members from the different CRC units in Rivers States and the media in attendance. The workshop was organised to strengthen the resilience of members of CRC in the struggle for the realisation of basic human rights and also to reinforce the capacity of members in speaking out against human wrongs and in standing up to defend their rights and that of others.

In his opening speech on the theme “Youth Standing Up For Human Rights”, the national coordinator of the Civil Rights Council Barr. Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna explained the significance of the International Human Rights Day. He noted that with the rise in the cases of human rights violation by state and non-state actors, it has become imperative for young people to act as agents of change in advancing human rights, justice and rule of law in Nigeria.  He further urged the youth to shift their attention from crime and “rather, engage constructively with state actors and government officials to ensure that they act within the bounds of the law and that the rights of the citizens are respected”.

Highlighting the achievements of the Civil Rights Council, the chairman of the Civil Rights Council, Rivers chapter, Mr. Prince Wiro gave an extensive run down of the intervention of CRC in different cases ranging from rape cases, violation of rights by private persons and corporations and the arbitrary use of power by security operatives including cases of illegal arrest, torture and detention. He also added that the workshop was part of CRC’s strategy in instituting a more aggressive fight in curbing human rights abuses in all its forms.

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The Coordinator of the Civil Rights Council Barr. Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna explaining the significance of the International Human Rights Day

Barr. Charles Edward Obiora, the guest speaker delivered an exhaustive lecture titled “An Appraisal of the Legal Regime for the Enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights in Nigeria”. He lectured briefly on various international and national human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and then went on to give an extensive analysis of the provisions and socioeconomic implications of the African Charter on the Human and People’s Rights (Enforcement and Ratification) Act and Chapter 2 and 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Barr. Charles Edward Obiora, the guest speaker delivering a lecture on “An Appraisal of the Legal Regime for the Enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights in Nigeria”

While still focusing on the human rights regime in Nigeria, Barr Christopher Mercy presented a paper on the right to development titled “Nigeria’s Human Rights Regime and the African Charter on Human and People’s Right”. The paper which focused on the social, economic, cultural rights guaranteed by the African Charter also stipulated the legal means for enforcing those rights through the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009. From her presentation, she clarified the position of the law on the right to development and the non-justiciability of the socioeconomic rights in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution.

The lectures were followed by an engaging question and answer session that got members asking thought provoking legal questions.

Mr. Sebastian Kpalap, the president of the Civil Rights Council closed the workshop with words of encouragement for the members of Civil Rights Council to stay true to the cause even in the face of harassment and intimidation by persons who stand against the progress of the common people.

 

2019 INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY CELEBRATION IN YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE

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Anti-Corruption Day Road Procession on the Streets of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Anti-Corruption Day Rally

The Bayelsa NGOs Forum, BANGOF with support from Social Action carried out activities to mark the International Anti-corruption Day in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state with the Theme; ‘’Corruption; Impediment to the Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The rally which was organised in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state was targeted at raising public awareness for anti-corruption in the state.

While addressing the crowd at the Peace Park, BANGOF charged the anti-corruption agencies to collaborate with one another and create a synergy to ensure the campaign is given enough teeth in other to crush corruption in the state. The statement by the organisation further outlined the negative effects of corruption in the social and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta States and charge the citizens not to consider the immediate gratification that corruption offers but rather consider the overarching interest of the people.  Bayelsans were also encourages to report any case of corruption to the appropriate agencies for prosecution.

Participants displayed different anti-corruption messages, banners and inscriptions as they walked through the street of the capital city. 28 persons representing 21 civil society and media organizations participated in the rally which took off from the Yenagoa main motor park known as Ekeki motor park through the busy streets of Yenagoa and terminated at the Peace Park, opposite Government House at Ovom.

 

Radio Call in Programme

In continuation of the programmes outline by the Bayelsa Anti-corruption Network to mark the International Anti-corruption day, the Network featured in a 30 minutes Live Audience Participation Radio discussion at the Rhythm 94.7 FM in Yenagoa Bayelsa state. The discussion on the theme “Corruption; Impediment to Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” provided the platform for the Network to reach out to the listening audience of the radio station in Bayelsa and the neighbouring states. The programme elucidated call in from several audience who concurred with the studio guests and encouraged the Network not to rest on its oars to ensure that the state is rid of corruption. Other callers who wanted to know how to join the network in the campaign against corruption were directed by the Network members to BANGOF’s secretariat in Yenagoa.

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Members of the Anticorruption Network in Bayelsa State on  a live radio programme to mark the Anticorruption Day 2019

THE INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY 2019 ACTIVITIES IN UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE

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Anti-Corruption Day Rally

In Uyo the Anticorruption Network (ACONET) members joined the Uyo Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC on Monday, December 9, 2019 on a citywide walk to sensitize the public against the adverse impact of corruption on the country’s economy and especially the citizens. The 2019 Anticorruption Day street campaign therefore, sought to sound a clarion call on Nigerians to ‘Wipe out corruption totally!’

This according to the EFCC Uyo Zonal Head, Mr Garuba Dugum, is important because ‘any society or a nation that does not check corruption in the system is bound to fail in all ramification.’

In a related development, ACONET was also represented at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission – ICPC events to mark the World Anti-Corruption Day, with the theme; “United Against Corruption”.

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Anti-corruption Day Rally in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State

The ICPC events kicked off with a citywide public awareness and sensitisation walk from the ICPC office in Ewet Housing Estate, to 4 Lanes, connecting Oron Road, then to Uruan Street and back to the Integrity Lecture venue at Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo.

 

The State Commissioner, Mr. Sola Shodipo represented by the Director of the Legal Department, Barr. T. U. Kalu; stated that, the fight against corruption should not be limited to the ICPC alone, because the consequences transcend the commission and charged everyone to be on the alert.

 

Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat

Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) organised a Media Chat as part of its activities to mark the international Anticorruption Day. The Media chat began with a brief introduction of invited stakeholders by the ACONET State Coordinator, Ann Udonte. She expressed her gratitude to all the stakeholders and representatives of the press present for honouring the invitation to the roundtable discourse. The media chart was focused on amplifying anticorruption efforts through collective actions. She emphasised that the Network will keep reaching out to the related MDAs in the state in partnership, knowing that the interest of the citizens ACONET work to serve must always come first. The State Coordinator expressed her delight in the partnership and collaborations she envisaged in the future of anti-corruption activities in the state and shared some success stories of ACONET in the fight against corruption in the state. The CLO Chairman, Comrade Franklyn Isong, in his goodwill message commended the Government for the Treasury Single Account and recommended special courts to try corrupt politicians because, according to him, the delay in convicting corrupt individuals kills the process. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the manners in which the projects of the state were carried out and went further to query the Ministry of Works on the poor state of roads in the state. Comrade Isong demanded that the state open up its portal to enable an effective and efficient tracking of budget; which he believed would afford the public the opportunity to make proper inputs on the plights and aspirations of people. He concluded with a charge to the media to wake up to their responsibilities.

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Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat

Representative of the Joint Association of Persons Living with Disabilities (JONAPWD) – Mr. Ubong Udo Mr. Ubong Udo representing the Chairperson, JONAPWD Akwa Ibom State Chapter, stated that there is a strong link between corruption and the conditions of people living with disabilities. According to him, corruption is the major cause of high cases of disabilities in the country. So many preventable diseases are allowed to escalate because of poor management of the health institutions. Sharing the story of his disability, Mr. Udo said he became blind because the nurses and doctors on duty gave wrong diagnosis about a preventable glaucoma infection and he attributed this to the carelessness, irresponsibility and negligence on the part of Government. He also stated that some group of persons are using persons with disabilities wrongly, they make budgets for them without first evaluating their needs; they propose scholarships that do not get to any of them. He also queried the need of having special primary schools and not having Special Secondary Schools and Universities to cater for those with peculiar needs graduating from these schools.

The media chat also had in attendance the State Director, National Orientation Agency Mr. Enoh Uyoh, Democracy Africa Youth Parliament – DAYP representative by Comrade Akan James and representative of the Foundation for Civic Education, Human Rights, and Development Advancement (FoCEHRaDA) – Clifford Thomas, Esq. Others include representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) – Comrade Effiong Nya, the Traditional Institution – His Royal Highness Etinyin Edet Nyong Eken the ICPC Barrister Ugbo Kalu and the Media.

In an interactive session, questions from media persons present were adequately addressed. Barrister Clifford Thomas, while giving the vote of thanks on behalf of the stakeholders, charged the Government of the day to be responsible and monitor activities of contractors. He concluded by appreciating the Network on behalf of the participants for conveying the dialogue and reiterated the commitment of all stakeholders, present, to the fight against corruption.

 

THE INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY 2019 ACTIVITIES IN PORT HARCOURT

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The 9th of December was declared by the United Nation as the International Anticorruption Day to draw attention to and create awareness on the dangers of corruption to the development of any people. Since United Nations Convention Against Corruption passage on 31 October 2003, the day been observed by government and non-governmental organisations, the civil society, pressure groups and communities the world over.

Social Action, like many other civil society groups in Nigeria has been observing the day in line with the spirit and intentions of the United Nations declarations. Consequently, activities for 2019 have been organised to draw attention of the governments and her agencies on the need to curb corruption, promote accountability and prosecute those found involved in corrupt practices as a deterrent to those who would want to tow the ignoble line. The citizens are also sensitized on the need to shun corruption and to report cases of corruption to the anti-graft agencies. The activities lined up for 2019 Anticorruption Day include radio sensitization program, press briefing, symposium and anti-corruption rally.

 

Press Briefing

Ahead of the international anti-corruption day 2019, the Rivers Anti-corruption Network organised a press briefing on the recent activities and outcomes of actions the network has carried out so far in the form of advocacies, engagements and campaigns on the issues of corruption in the state in the past months.

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Members of the Rivers Anticorruption Network and the press at the Press Briefing in Port Harcourt

The press briefing took place at the Head Office of Social Action in Port Harcourt on the 6th of December 2019. It was used to inform the general public and citizens on the efforts the Network has put in to get documents pertaining to the award of contracts from government institutions in Rivers State placed with the responsibility to do so and how those efforts have been in futility. In a statement read by Comrade Green Isaac, requests were made to the office of the Accountant General of the state for the Accountant General’s Report for the year ended 2018. Requests were also made to the office of the Auditor General, for the Auditor General’s Report of 2018 fiscal year as ended and the Bureau of Public Procurement in Port Harcourt for details of the contract awarded in the state for 2018. Unfortunately, none of these requests was responded to by the respective agencies.

In her statement,  the Network made salient demands on the government and anti-graft agencies as follows;

 

  • That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) demonstrate their acclaimed transparency and accountability in carrying out their mandate by availing the Network all necessary documents bothering on corrupts cases and the officials involved to enable the Network advance her advocacy and campaigns.

 

  • That both anti-graft agencies revisit the absurd perpetual injunction procured by a past Rivers State governor against the investigation of the Rivers State Government officials to enable the tracking of their activities while in office in order to entrench accountability.
  • That a special corruption tribunal be set up to adjudicate on corruption cases in order to take up petitions of reported corrupt government officials for speedy and timely prosecution.
  • That the government of Rivers State makes the State budget processes inclusive and open for citizen’s participation.
  • That the government of Rivers State makes the State’s budgets available and accessible to the citizens and public. This is most critical in tracking governance and entrenching accountability in governance in the State.

At the end of the briefing, questions were asked by the media persons and civil society groups present while members of the Network provided answers. The Rivers Anticorruption Network is constituted by concerned Civil Society Organisations, the Civil Right Council, Community Based Organisations and the Media and coordinated by Social Action

Anti-Corruption Day Rally

The 2019 Anti-corruption day rally was a collaborative street walk against corruption between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria Shippers council, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Police, the Rivers Anti-corruption, coalition of Civil Society organisations and convened by Social Action and host of others in the maritime sector. The rally which took place on the 9th of December 2019, started from the EFCC office at No 6 Olumeni street, old GRA Port Harcourt to Mile 1 Diobu, transiting through Ikwerre Road and returned back to old GRA.

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The anti-corruption day rally in Port Harcourt being led by Governor Nyesom Wike leading the anti-corruption rally

The walk which was well attended by state and non-state actors also had in attendance the Governor of Rivers State Governor Nyesom E. Wike CON, and his cabinet members from the government house.

The governor while addressing the gathering said corruption has been the major problem of the Nigerian State and it has been the factor hindering development in the country. He gave the commitment of the State Government’s readiness to support the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption. However, he said that the state government’s support can only come if the anti-graft agencies fight corruption within the ambit of the law and not by a selective execution.

In his address, the Head of the EFCC Zonal Office in Port Harcourt Abdulrasheed Bawa, commended the Rivers State government for gracing the occasion with their presence. He recounted the successes of the Commission in her anti-graft campaign in taking down and convicting corrupt government officials. He gave the recent instance of the case of a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, who was convicted of corruptly enriching himself in government and sentenced to a 12-year imprisonment. The Zonal Head emphasised that the commission is law abiding and ready to follow the due process of the law, within the laid down rules of its mandate in fighting corruption.

On behalf of the Rivers Anti-Corruption Network and Civil Society, Comrade Green Isaac, said that corruption has eaten deep into every facet of the society and therefore needs the concerted effort of all citizens, governments and their agencies in the fight against the menace if there is any hope to make any appreciable impact. He regretted that over 2.5 trillion dollars is wasted every year on corruption- an amount ten times higher than that meant for development. He informed the gathering that the Network has been following trends of corruption cases and solicited the support of all stakeholder to ensure corruption is reduced to its barest minimum in the state. He advised contractors handling projects in the state to do execute them within the specified time frame and to ensure quality service delivery with the understanding that there is a third eye watching, which is the civil society.

Green concluded his address by lauding the state governor and his cabinet for partaking in the anti-corruption walk, noting that it was the beginning of good thing to come in the fight against corruption.

THE 2019 REGIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CONFERENCE

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Transparency and accountability are critical for the efficient functioning of a modern economy, fostering of social well-being of a people and sustainable development in any democracy. Successive governments over the years, since the reborn of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, have made lofty promises with the intent of progressively lifting the living conditions of the people of the Niger Delta out of poverty. Government policies formulated, intervention programmes and agencies created to this end, rather than changing the fortune of people, have further denigrated them in spite of the natural resources of oil and gas the region is blessed with.

This lingering quagmire necessitated the coming together of policymakers, parliamentarians, academia, anti-graft agencies, Civil Society Organization and the media across the Niger Delta region to brainstorm and share information on developments around the management of public resources including budget execution in states of the Niger Delta.

The 2019 Regional Accountability Conference which held at the Topview Hotel in Asaba, the capital city of Delta State had in its theme Promoting Accountability in Service Delivery and Public Finance Management at Sub-National Level. The conference, which took place on the 8th of November 2019, afforded participants the opportunity to dialogue on the approaches in combating the phenomenon of low public budget performance and service delivery at the sub-national levels towards achieving optimal judicious use of public resources and attaining the development aspirations of citizens in these areas.

The dialogue focused on promoting constructive engagements on inclusiveness and transparency in the budgeting process to bring about improved service delivery in public projects implementation, the need to create a platform for trust-building between citizens and the government through constant interaction and the importance of sticking to a realistic budget estimates and projections for improved budget performance and service delivery were also deliberated.

In the course of deliberations at the conference, it was observed among other points, that there is a lack of proper planning and clear-cut entry points for citizens’ participation in the budget process in some states in the region. It was also noted that budgets and other fiscal documents are hardly available to the public, and this opacity has fostered corruption in the implementation of capital projects. On the part of the citizens, it was observed that low education and awareness at the grassroots, unrealistic demands on contractors by some communities and inadequate actions by the Civil Society were also inhibitors to effective budget implementation.

At the end of the conference a communique signed by representatives of the Anti-Corruption Network was issued, with crucial recommendations which include;

  1. That state government in the region make the budget more inclusive, realistic and needs-oriented.
  2. That government increase service delivery in the region by shoring up the level of budget implementation.
  3. That the National Orientation Agency (NOA) be upgraded to the Ministry of Indoctrination.
  4. That grassroots sensitization on the budget be simplified (such as in local languages).
  5. That there be more grassroots sensitization on citizens’ participation in the budgeting process.
  6. That Civil Society Organizations engage and influence more government policies and actions.
  7. That CSOs and citizens, put pressure on governments in the region to be more accountable.
  8. That government, in not just the region, but the country at large, be more resolute in meting out appropriate punishment/sanctions against those who indulge in corrupt acts, especial around budget formulation and implementation.

Participants generally resolved that the task of promoting accountability in service delivery and public finance management is a shared responsibility for all – government, CSOs, the media, traditional ruler and citizens.

DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION AND PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO SELF DETERMINATION: A STRUCTURAL (CRITICAL) ANALYSIS OF THE NIGERIAN DEMOCRATIC EXPERIENCE IN THE FOURTH REPUBLIC

Jaiye

BY JAYE GASKIA

[PAPER PRESENTED AT THE SOCIAL ACTION CAMP 2019, OWERRI, IMO STATE, NOV 12TH TO 16TH 2019]

 

SETTING THE CONTEXT;

It is important to begin by making a few clarifications. First, I have taken the liberty to put the conversation we are going to have on this topic, within a defined historical context and period, that of Nigeria’s fourth republic inaugurated on May 29th, 1999, a little over twenty years ago. This necessary because a discourse of this nature, that is heavy on analysis of our democratic experience, shouldn’t be open ended, nor should it be too expansive with regards to the period of its coverage, if we are to be able to focus on the issues, which though are historically determined, but carry with them the urgency of now.

Second, the approach adopted is one that situates the present conversation within the context of the overall theme of the 2019 social action camp, which is “Democracy in Nigeria: Building Popular Power From Below.”

Third, in order to achieve this aim of congruence between theme and topic, it became necessary to approach the question of structural analysis from the perspective of critical analysis. In other words, which elements of the structure of our recent democratic experience lend themselves being abused and transformed into obstacles on the path of popular, which is essentially citizen participation in the democratic enterprise and nation-building project, and which by so doing have become challenges to, but also in a dialectical sense, the reasons for building popular power from below.

For this reason therefore focus will be concentrated on a critical analysis of these structural obstacles, because addressing and tackling them will significantly improve democratic participation experience, enormously contribute to the process of deepening democratisation and democratic consolidation, while also, tremendously increase the prospect of the nation-building project, resulting in a socially just society, built on the foundation of social emancipation, and capable of engendering qualitative social transformation.

Fourth, this discourse as presented here is heavily influenced by, and borrows profusely from personal experience of active engagement in the theory and practice of our collective struggle to remake our society, reclaim our humanity, and in the process make our own contributions towards a more qualitative humanization of the human civilization and historical experience.

 

GROUNDING THE CONTEXT: SOME CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS;

At this point, before we go any further, it is important that we explain our approach to certain concepts that define and frame the structural challenges of our democratic experience, and which we seek to critically analyse in order to be able to chart a path towards building popular power from below, to enable us enhance democratic participation, and be in a position to determine the content and quality of democratic consolidation in our country, Nigeria.

For this purpose, four concepts have been identified. And the intention here is to interrogate, not just simply define these concepts. These concepts are Democracy, Participation, Democratic participation, and Right to Self Determination.

So now let us begin the preparation for our journey.

Democracy And Democratic Participation: What is democracy? The most popularly accepted definition of democracy is the one attributed to Abraham Lincoln thus “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Implicit in this definition is already the necessity for the participation of the people. However, the problem lies in the definition of, and in the conceptualisation of what and who constitutes the people.

The word democracy itself is of Greek origin, and ancient Greece is credited with being the first human civilisation to practice democracy in recorded history.

However, whereas the definition of democracy can be said to be aspirational, the biggest challenge however is the contestation over what and who constitutes the people.

For instance, Ancient Greece where the word and practice originated was a slave owning civilisation, with more than 90% of the population being slaves.

Also, the United States [US] which today promotes itself as the global defender of democracy, has prided itself on being an exemplary democracy since its foundation. But what does the facts tell us? At the time of independence, when the independence patriots were making the declaration of independence, all the signatories to this declaration were slave owners, the American Economy was built and thrived on slavery, and slaves were not considered part of the people, and were thus excluded from participating in this democracy.

What is more, even after the abolition of slavery with the American Civil war, blacks in America still found it nearly impossible to vote until the civil rights movement one hundred years after the abolition slavery and end of the civil war!

Furthermore, until the suffragettes movement at the end of the 19th and the dawn of the 20th century women did not have the right to vote or be voted for anywhere in the world. And until the victory in the anti-colonial movement after the second world war, most of the people in the colonised countries could neither vote nor be voted for, and majority of the countries in the world could not govern themselves.

Thus whereas, democracy may indeed be government of the people, by the people and for the people, democratic participation is limited, constrained and or expanded by the response to the question of who the people are.

And all through history, the instinct and practice of ruling classes is to limit as much as possible the boundaries of what constitutes the people, hence the introduction of numerous obstacles on the path of powerless, excluded, exploited, and marginalised peoples, to constrain their ability to participate in the democratic process.

Essentially therefore, democracy and democratic participation is a contested terrain, between those who have power and wealth, who control and dominate the economy on the other hand, and those who are powerless, who are excluded from wealth, who are dominated in the economy, and who are exploited and marginalised by the powerful on the other hand.

In order words, democratic participation is contingent on, and is the outcome of the balance of class and social forces in mortal contestation over access to and control of societal wealth, and the levers of political power in the society.

The implication of this is that the quality of our democratic experience is determined by the quality of struggle to contest the democratic space with the ruling class, that is the quality and capacity of our popular movements to roll back the power and dominance of the ruling class, and ensure and enhance the unfettered participation of segments of society in the governance of the society.

People’s Right To Self Determination: The right to self determination is essentially the right of a people to govern themselves. The highest expression of this right is the exercise of independence, and the ascension to the status of an independent country.

The movement for self determination arose historically within the context of the history of evolution of humanity and of human civilisation and societies.

As human societies became more complex, they became more organised. In order to achieve more and more enhanced organised structure, primarily with respect to the ability to better exploit human and natural resources, the state emerged.

In this struggle to dominate society and nature, in this race to create the most efficient structure for this domination enterprise, ruling classes and the states over which they superintended find by the logic of their existence, the constant need to dominate and conquer not just the overwhelming majority of members of their own society who are transformed into exploited and marginalised working peoples [peasants, workers, etc], but are also compelled by the same logic and urge to dominate and conquer other human societies.

It was within this context of conquest and domination that the struggle of conquered and dominated peoples for self determination have emerged, and it is within this evolving historical context, that this struggle has also evolved.

In essence therefore, the struggle for the right to self determination and the desire for conquest and domination are tow sides of the same human historical development coin, they are two dialectically coupled moments of the same process.

Without conquest and domination, there will be no need for self-determination. Haven established this, it is important for us to now situate this within the context of our discourse.

We must raise some critical questions? Are there any groups in the Nigeria of the 4th Republic, ethnic or religious that are being exclusively, or primarily dominated and excluded because of their ethnic and or religious identity?

Is there any state in Nigeria today, that has been governed by so-called non-indigenes since 1999 – whether as governors, Speakers and or Chief Judges? That is the heads of the three arms of government? Are there anyone of the Local Government Area Councils whose governance has been in the hands of non-indigenes since 1999?

And even more importantly, are there any ethnic and or religious groups in Nigeria that are not sharply divided into a tiny minority of the rich [relatively] at one end, and a vast majority of poor [relatively] at the other end?

In other words, in today’s Nigeria, the primary contradiction is class, between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless; and furthermore, every ethnic and or religious group in this country has representatives from these two primary divides.

Nevertheless, due to the failure of ruling class leadership, the lack of patriotism of Nigeria’s ruling class, the lack of vision of this ruling class, the natural tendency towards uneven and combined development within capitalism, has been allowed to lead to a situation of grievous regional discrepancies and inequalities in the development of the country.

The most devastating consequence of this is that by a sleight of hand, this glaring manifestation of ruling class leadership failure is now deployed in the arsenal of the ruling class for divide and rule amongst Nigerians in order to prevent the potential unity of the exploited classes, and safeguard the dominance and conquest of the ruling class.

 

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF NIGERIAN DEMOCRATIC EXPERIENCE ;

There are quite a few issues that seem to remain permanently contentious, and continue to trend, using the popular social media lingo in contemporary Nigeria polity.

They seem to me to have remained contentious either because the elites promoting them have deliberately or inadvertently been foggy and unclear about them; or as a result of a somewhat complacency of the wider organised citizenry which has allowed the fallacies of the ruling elites to go unchallenged; or due to a combination of both factors.

Whichever is the case, the competing factions and fractions of the ruling elite continue to exploit the fallouts from these deliberately contrived contentious issues to divide us and make it extremely difficult for their dominance to be challenged effectively.

It is important that we engage frontally with these issues because of the impact they have on our march to progress, our ability to build a socially just society, and our capacity to deepen the democratisation process.

I am very consciously using the concept of deepening the democratisation process as opposed to consolidating democracy because they mean different things.

To consolidate our democracy is to seek to stabilise and legitimise formal democracy – regular elections, party politics etc.

To deepen the democratisation process is to seek to expand democracy beyond its formal sphere, to build a socially just society with equitable distribution of wealth, where every sphere of life is democratised, and where popular participation underlies the system. It is a process that ultimately culminates in the democratic self-government and self-management of political and economic processes.

Anyway, let us return to the “contentious issues’’.

CITIZENSHIP AND INDIGENEITY:

One of the greatest obstacles to democratic participation is the question of citizenship. The challenge here is the way and manner by which ruling class governance practice, and the provision of the constitution on Federal Character, which not only requires equitable representation of the states of the federation in the public and civil services, but also seems to prescribe an indigenship criteria as the basis for representation of a state, have combined to somewhat diminish in practice Nigerian citizenship.

The implication of this specific practice and interpretation of some sections of the constitution is that citizenship seems to be based on being able to prove indigeneity of a state, rather than on residency anywhere in the federation, in obvious contradiction of the spirit and letter of the provisions of Section 15, 3, b of the Chapter Two of the CFRN 199 which provides that “For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the state to …. Secure full residence rights of every citizen in all parts of the federation.”

Furthermore, nothing in the provisions of Chapter Three of the CFRN 199 as amended which deals with Nigerian citizenship provides for or justifies this discriminatory application of citizenship rights on the basis of indigenship rather than residency.

This question of universal citizenship based on residency is important and central to the question of democratic participation, because the use of indigenship has very frequently been used to constrain, and or limit the participation of residents who are non-indigenes in the democratic process and governance experience of the localities where they are resident.

This is compounded by the fact that more than half of the Nigerian population are not resident in their states of origin, and even for those few who are, they are not resident in their local governments of origin. This thus constrains the representational ability and voice of non-indigenous residents in effective participation the democratic governance and affairs of where they are residents.

Whereas affirmative actions such as federal character principle, and the quota system emanating from it are necessary and significant tools for addressing unequal development and regional inequalities, they have to be time-bound, with prescribed end dates, and must be grounded in governance policy, institutional, legislative and investment program and plan to correct anomalies, and ensure a more even development over a prescribed time frame, or they become instruments of perpetuating and deepening inequality, and of feeding pre-bendalism in order to continue to divide and rule.

As part of the process of building popular power to deepen popular democratic participation therefore, it is important that we raise the demand for the recognition in law and practice of Universal citizenship based on residency.

Every Nigerian, regardless of where they are resident in Nigeria must be guaranteed the right to a full enjoyment of their citizenship rights, including the right to participate in the political and economic life of where they are resident, as well as to participate in the governance of their country through agency of their place of residence rather than their place of origin.

For electoral purposes for instance in the 4th Republic, quite a significant number of Nigerians who are on the voters register are registered to vote in their states of origin rather than in their states of residence; hence they are compelled to be more interested in the governance of their states of origin rather than their states of residence. If they want to serve in public political office, elected or appointive, the vast majority are compelled to seek the realisation of this desire in their states of origin rather than their states of residence. Furthermore, issues around insecurity, state of the economy, and livelihoods condition of the respective citizen also combine to determine their ability to actually exercise their voting rights during elections, because of the contingencies and logistics of traveling from their place of residence to their states of origin where they are registered.

Another example is in education, where for instance in state-owned tertiary institutions, non-indigenes regardless of whether they have been resident in such a state all their lives pay higher fees than indigenes, regardless of whether they have never been resident in those states. The situation is even such that employment, promotion, and the ability to rise to the top of the institutional hierarchy is often contingent on being an indigene of the state which owns the institution.

For admission purposes into tertiary institutions it is even worse. Pupils who have attended the same Junior and Secondary Schools, pupils have all spent their entire educational career in schools within the same state where they are all resident, get admitted into public tertiary institutions on the basis of quota systems and qualifying marks allocated to their states of origin.

Except we are saying that educational disadvantage is genetic in origin, and not conditioned on the political, economic and socio-cultural structures of the lived environment, then this kind of application of federal character principle and quota system makes no rationale sense, contributes to perpetuating inequalities, and helps to reinforce primordial prejudices, in a manner that contributes significantly to the emergence of unifying popular national consciousness that can facilitate the building of popular power from below, and enhance the deepening of the democratic experience through popular participation.

THE SCOPE AND COVERAGE OF FEDERAL LEGISLATION:

One of the anomalies of our current democratic experience, particularly since the inauguration of the current 4th Republic in 1999 is the contrived and received political elite pseudo-wisdom that laws validly made by the Federal Legislature, the National Assembly [NASS] require to be domesticated by state legislatures before they can be enforced within those states.

So let us try to disentangle ourselves from this self-serving cobweb of the political elite. First Nigeria is a Federation, and a federation is a political and governance arrangement between two blocs of entities – Federal centre and the constituent federating units, who have come together to establish the federation.

In fact the constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] in Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, subsection 2 states that  “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.

In a federation therefore, power is shared between the federation and its constituent units. That is why we have the Exclusive legislative list on which only the Federation can legislate on; and the Concurrent Legislative list, on which both the Federation and the federating units, in this case, the states can legislate on.

Secondly, the NASS is made up of two chambers; the Senate, in which every federating unit is represented equally, in this case 3 senators per state; and the House Of Representatives [HOR] in which states, the federating units are represented on the basis of their respective population.

In Chapter 1, Part II, Section 4, subsection 1, the 1999 constitution proceeds to vest legislative powers of the federation in the NASS, and in subsections 2, 3, & 4  proceeds to define these legislative powers with respect to items on the Exclusive list [subsection 2]. And items on the concurrent list [subsections 3 & 4].

Subsection 5 further proceeds to underlie the supremacy of the federal legislation over a state legislation where a state legislation is inconsistent with a validly made federal legislation.

The operative phrase here is ‘’validly made legislation’’. And there are established provisions of the constitution and legislative procedures for making a legislation in our constitution and in the procedures of the NASS. Only the courts, and ultimately the Supreme court can rule with finality on the validity of a law where there is any contention.

Furthermore, it is important to note that no law can be enacted without the concurrence of both the Senate and the HOR, legislative chambers within which the federating units are adequately and democratically represented.

The implication of that concurrence and passage of the law by the NASS is that the federating units, through their elected representatives have been duly consulted.

Thirdly, the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not the FCT, it is all of the space that constitutes the country, that is all of the territories of its constituent units.

Fourthly, the concept of domestication of a law is alien to national law, it is instead an aspect of international law that requires that when nations enter into international agreements, treaties and conventions, the provisions of those agreements require to be incorporated into the national laws by the national legislatures in order for it to have the force of law within those countries. This is the process that is referred to as domestication.

If the legislative powers of the federation are vested in the NASS; if the territory of the Federal republic of Nigeria is the combined territories of its constituent units, including the littoral space; and if a federal law shall prevail over any laws made by the state assemblies that is inconsistent with the federal law; then it follows that any law validly made by the NASS assembly is a law valid and enforceable across the entire territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The implication of this, and the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that any Federal Law, or any Law validly made for the Federation of Nigeria, by its NASS is a law valid across all the territory of the federation, and one that requires no domestication.

And this is without prejudice to the power of the State Assemblies to make laws on items on the concurrent legislative list for their respective states. It only means that states can legislate on any item on the concurrent legislative list irrespective of whether the NASS has already legislated on it; but only subject to the fact that it must not be inconsistent with the Federal legislation.

 

JUSTICIABILITY OF CHAPTER TWO OF THE CONSTITUTION;

Another of such contrived contentious issues is that with respect to the justiciability or enforceability of the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 constitution.

The popular, received and conventional wisdom is that the provisions of this chapter, titled Fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, unlike those of Chapter Four, titled Fundamental Rights, are not justiciable and enforceable.

However, a careful reading of all the twelve [12] sections of this chapter, from sections 13 through 24, shows that each of these sections is qualified with the verb ‘’shall’’. Each of the sections of this chapter includes the qualifying phrase  “The state …….., All organs of government  etc ….. Shall …….”.

Shall is an obligatory verb, not a conditional verb. If the drafters of the constitution intended these provisions not to be mandatory, and to be be voluntary subject to cherry picking, the operative verb would have been “May”; and the operative phrases would have been  “The State …. All organs of government etc ….. May” ….

The implication of this, and the logical conclusion that can be drawn is that the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 constitution are obligatory on the state and citizens; and to that extent are enforceable and justiciable.

DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY;

One of the more popular phrases thrown around like that of restructuring Nigeria is that of Local Government Autonomy.

And because state governments have been encroaching unconstitutionally on the autonomy of Local Governments there have been agitation for Local Government reforms.

It is important to state clearly that there is an urgent necessity for the reform of local government in Nigeria. However, the way to do this is to enforce the provisions of the constitution and include punishments for violating the provisions of the constitution with respect to local governments, by state governments, through necessary amendments to enforce the provisions of the constitution.

The 1999 constitution in Chapter 1, Part I, Section 7 already guarantees a system of democratically elected local government councils.

The implication of the combined reading of all the provisions of section 7 is that only democratically elected local government councils are recognised by the constitution. Therefore, caretaker committees, sole administrator-ships are alien to the constitution, and to this extent are therefore unconstitutional.

No reading of the provisions of the constitution however liberal can legitimise the practice of appointing caretaker committees and or sole administrators for local government councils. The functions conferred by law on the Local governments are also clearly set out in the fourth schedule to the constitution; and the combined reading of subsections 5 & 6 of section 7 of the constitution is to the effect that statutory allocations to Local governments are guaranteed, and that these shall be ensured by both the NASS and State Assembly.

In fact, subsection 3 of section 7 mandates local government councils to participate in the economic planning and development of the local government area, and further requires that to this end an Economic planning board shall be established by law enacted by the state assembly for the local council area.

It follows that two key things are necessary to be undertaken in the course of local council reform to further guarantee their autonomy.

First the violations of the combined provisions of section 7, Chapter One of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria must be explicitly punished. Provisions for these needs to be included in any amendment. These provisions may include setting up an ombudsman body to oversight compliance with the constitutional provision.

Second, once the constitutional guarantee of democratically elected local council governments have been strengthened, it will be necessary to then de-list the names of the LGAs from the constitution, so that states as federating units, and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution can then decide and establish any number of such local government areas as may be deemed necessary for the development of the state.

 

COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE:

The current context of deepening and heightening insecurity in the country is once again bringing to the fore, the question and place of local governance in societal and national development process. From the unending quest for local government autonomy, through the quest for a more effective role for traditional rulers, and upto the renewed conversation around community policing, in reality the issues being raised are simply those around effective organisation and administration of communities to ensure enhanced mobilisation and deployment of community resources in the service and upliftment of the community in a manner that will enable the all round development of the human member of the community.

And if we are to identify a major gap and Faultline in the democratic experience of Nigeria, in the overall governance architecture, and in the ability for enhanced organised, self-conscious participation of the people in governance; this would be the absence of formal democratic, self-governing governance institutions and mechanisms at the community level. Put differently the absence of the community level as a tier of formal governance is a major foundational fault of not only of our democratic experience, but also of our national building project.

But what is the background to this conviction about the need for community self-government, that will be politico- administrative in nature, and that will have as its sole aim, the protection, advancement, promotion, and achievement of the Development Rights of the Community?

Haven been part of development work in local communities for close to a decade as a civil society personnel, and haven observed and studied development work in these local communities, one has come to identify a major contradiction.

In spite of decades of community development work, local communities have remained, pauperized, undeveloped, and rural.  Instead, what we find is a littering of the community landscape with abandoned, defective, dying, and dilapidating Community Development Projects.

The reason for this, is the dispossession and disempowerment, of local communities that have become enhanced, strengthened and entrenched over the decades by the very developmental process designed to ameliorate the local conditions.

Development infrastructure come to the communities, from the outside, yet rural infrastructures are essentially community infrastructures; it is externally driven in terms of  funding, administration, etc and yet communities are expected to sustain  these projects, without a fundamental transformation of social relations, particularly the community’s relationship with, and access to structured political power.

Critique Of The Current Local Governance Reality –

What is happening in Nigeria today is not just the over centralization of power in the federal government.  In relation to the local government there is in fact a greater over centralization of power in the state governments.  When state government actors canvass for devolution of power, the local government system is not factored into the equation at all.  They, that is these state actors, in fact mean devolution of more powers to the state level.

As things are presently, there is no form of formal governance going on in local communities anywhere in Nigeria.  What communities are burdened with are decaying and incongruous traditional institutions, which apart from exercising socio-cultural influence over the people, have no politico- economic authority of over the affairs of the communities.  Of course, local communities have over the decades and centuries, evolved informal governance structures, such as Community Development Councils / Community Development Associations (CDC’s / CDA’s), among others; these structure have remained politically powerless in terms of carrying out actual and formal democratic self-governance of the communities.

The local government governs in any effective way only the local government’s headquarters, the other communities in the local government area are excluded in any formal, statutory, accountable, responsible and effective way from the government and governance.  They may have representatives in the local council government, particularly in its legislative assembly, but these reps merely go to the headquarters to attend council meetings, and that is all.  Yet it is at the community level that the efficacy, efficiency, effectiveness and beauty of participatory democracy can be most manifested.

But alas, at the moment what happens is that all manner of development agencies from the federal, state and  local governments, to civil society organizations, and international agencies, all clear their own paths into the bemused communities, claw out their own breathing space, and proceed to put into effect, their own, and oftentimes competing and even contradictory development agenda in these communities.  There is no synergy, there is no central community co-ordination authority, and none of these agencies is responsible and, or accountable, in any effective, direct, or obligatory, manner to the communities.  In fact, communities relate with these development agencies as they would with a messiah come to save them, a Daniel come to judgment.

Community Participation and so-called ownership is built into some of these processes, particularly those by progressive civil society organisations, through unequal encounters between community informal institutions, and the representatives of these development agencies.

The Case For Democratic Community Self-government –

There is a very urgent and compelling need for communities to be enabled to evolve and nurture democratic self-government institutions which will become statutorily and legally recognized as a constitutional tier of government and be constitutionally guaranteed.  Communities should be enabled to establish community governments which will be composed of elected representatives of the various segment to of the community; primarily residents and residents groups, such as clans, compounds, extended families; and which will also include delegated (that is elected by their peers) representatives of the various informal groups and associations; including youth, women, livelihoods and artisan groups, as well as from the CDC / CDA.

This community government organ should elect its own chairperson, and secretary, and constitute statutory committees to handle various areas of the community’s life, but with its sole focus being organizing, coordinating and leading community development efforts.

But beyond this as a government, it must also have access to statutory allocation of resources, as well as, have some categories of revenue that it should be left to collect in order to generate resources for its own developmental efforts.  What this means is that communities should be allowed significant percentage shares of royalty and rent collected from businesses exploiting their natural resources and operating in their domain.

This presupposes that ownership of natural resources will revert to communities, who then go on to exercise control over their management, exploitation, and the distribution or disbursement of benefits arising out of their natural resource endowment and exploitation.

Fundamentally though, a community government should be a government for the entire residents of the community, and not a government of only indigenes, and representative role in such a government should be based on residency in the community.

In this context, the traditional institutions can be integrated in a modernised and reformed manner to play an oversight role over the elected community government.

 

INSECURITY AND POLICING :

Against the backdrop of rising wave of spiralling insecurity across the country, with the intensification of the Herders/Farmers conflicts; the increasing frequency of kidnapping and abductions of school pupils, by both insurgents and pirates; and general worsening levels of crime; the calls for overhaul of the security architecture, and along with this, the call for the establishment of State police and community policing have been gaining in stridency and urgency.

But what exactly does it mean to have state police established across the states, which are at present the constituent units of our federation? What will this process entail? What are the likely challenges/ And how might these be mitigated and or prevented? And within this context, what does community policing mean?

To have state police services established across the country will require a number of foundational things; including primarily the amendment of Chapter VI, Part III, B, Sections 214, 215, & 216 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Which deals with the establishment of the Nigeria Police as the only Police Force for the Federation of Nigeria.

Consequent upon this amendment, there will then be the need to amend the Nigeria Police Act establishing the Nigeria Police; while each of the states of the federation through their state Houses of Assembly will then have to enact laws for the establishment of their own respective police services.

But even before they will be able to do this, Internal Security will also have to be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List of the Federation to the Concurrent list, to enable State Houses of Assembly [SHAs] to legislate on the establishment of their own respective police services.

This movement from exclusive to concurrent list will require the prior amendment of the First Schedule, Parts I & II of the 1999 CFRN as amended.

Now these are the foundational things that are required, and any one serious about establishment of state police will have to develop a schedule and plan of action for a legislative and policy agenda to make this happen.

There are, however, other secondary, but equally very important issues that require to be addressed. Primarily, without ensuring the affirmation of universal citizenship by Residency as already provided for by the 1999CFRN as amended in  Chapter Two, Section 15, subsection 3, b [which makes it obligatory for the state to protect residency rights of all Nigerians wherever they may be living in Nigeria].

This has implication for the question of the character of such a police service; will it be a police service for the residents of the state or exclusively for the indigenes of the state: Will recruitment into such a service be on the basis of residency, with a requirement for a determined number of consecutive years of residency in the state, or will it be based on being an indigene of state regardless where the person is resident? And consequently, will promotion and career advancement be based on merit or will it be enhanced or constrained by such a personnel’s state of origin? The issues being raised here are central to the determination of the character of the police service as a police formation for the state’s residents, or a legalised ethnic militia.

The next issue deals with the question of mandate and delineation of area of jurisdiction. What will be the relationship between the state police services and the Federal Police? Or between the state police service of one state, and that of another state in cases where they are dealing with and investigating crimes across multiple jurisdictions and state borders; or even in cases where there are boundary disputes between adjoining states?

One implication of these is that what will amount to state and federal jurisdictions with respect to crimes will have to be very clearly spelt out. For instance, it may require that distinctions be made between Federal and state crimes; with federal crimes being crimes designated by Federal laws, over which the Federal authorities can legislate; while state crimes will be crimes designated by state laws over which state authorities have legislative powers.

Furthermore, it does mean the distinctions between the Federal and State Hight courts will have to become clearer, with the Federal Police prosecuting Federal crimes at the Federal High Court, while the state police prosecute state crimes at the state high court.

Another inherent implication is that the prisons and correctional system will also have to be reformed. Will the state police prosecuting state crimes, through state courts, have a state court upon conviction sentence a criminal to serve their prison terms in the Federal prisons system? Wouldn’t it be logical for states to then also have their own prisons and correctional facilities systems in place?

There is also a third inherent implication which is around the question of coordination and synergy – vertical as well as horizontal – between and among the different levels of policing across the country. There will almost always certainly be a need for the Federal police to collaborate and coordinate with the state police even where because of jurisdiction they have the lead. This is because even Federal crimes committed within the borders of Nigeria will most likely be committed within state territories, hence the need to have some sort of coordination and synergy between federal and state police.

There will also be instances where state police services from different jurisdictions will have to collaborate and coordinate, particularly where crimes have been committed across more than one state police jurisdiction, or where a suspect has escaped the jurisdiction where a crime was committed to another jurisdiction. And some of these instances will also include the necessity to involve and coordinate with the federal policing authorities as well.

So evidently there will be a huge potential challenge with delineation of mandate and jurisdictions, as well as with the consequent necessity for coordination, collaboration and synergy.

Finally, on the issue of community policing, this is essentially a strategic approach to policing that embeds the entire policing formation and operations within communities. It is oriented on building a mutually dependent relationship between policing and the community and establishes a living mechanism for building trust and confidence between policing and the community, while ensuring community and citizen oversight of policing in the communities.

 

ESTABLISHMENT OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSIONS;

One craze fashionable among the political elites is the competitive race to federally establish regional development commissions.

Whereas the establishment of special commissions to address historical disadvantages are necessary and ought to be encouraged; it is the mode of their establishment that weighs significantly on the Federation and combine to heighten group tensions.

In their current forms, they are merely conduit pipes for cornering shares of the proverbial national cake by regional elites.

Every regional commission established through Federal legislation disempowers rather than empowers the disadvantaged regions. It takes some of the powers of the region over its own autonomous development away from the region and vests it in the federal government.

Thus, the Federal government establishes the commission, and constitutes its governing board and management, and also funds it, exercising considerable influence over its sources of funding and the allocation and disbursement of such funds.

The implication of this is that the Federal government thus takes over the power to determine the strategic policies and directions of these reginal commissions, from appointments to design, planning and implementation of intervention programs.

Of course, the Federal Government also funds the commissions. The implication being that resources which ought to accrue to the Federation Account and then allocated to the tiers of government are diminished. Ultimately the shares of the federating units of the federation account is the one most affected and most undermined.

If Nigeria’s political elites are not simply and only interested in access to, control and looting of collective treasury; if they are genuinely interested in human development and empowerment of citizens, and not just in their own greed and selfishness; if they were Nation Builders, and not Nation Wreckers; then there ought to be a different, more human and national development oriented path towards addressing disadvantages.

What we should be encouraging as not just a way of deepening democratisation, strengthening Federalism, and enabling equitable nation building is a system whereby the state governments of each region desiring a regional development commission, jointly establish such regional commissions through the simultaneous enactment of the Regional Development Commission Establishment Act by their respective state assemblies.

This way they retain control over the strategic direction and thrust of the regional development commission.

As a way of guaranteeing the funding base of such regional commissions jointly established by states within the region; we can then have a Federally established Special Development Commission and Fund, that also contributes to the funding of the regional commissions in addition to the statutory funds contributed by the establishing state governments.

In this respect, it seems to me a further weakening of the Federal arrangement, that tilts the balance of power predominantly to the Federal centre to continue to seek to enact Federal laws to establish Federally funded and controlled regional development commissions.

Section 83 of the 1999 constitution which already vests in the NASS the power to make law for the establishment of contingency funds already lays the foundation for the establishment of such a Federal Development Intervention Contingency Fund, from which Regional Commissions jointly established by collaborating states can draw part of their funding.

 

LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUECY OFFICES:

One of the biggest anomalies of our democratic experience since 1999, is the phenomenon of a democracy without democrats that we are saddled with.

We have found ourselves as a nation where the ruling class is not only lacking in creative energy, it is also lacking in the capacity to organise, run and practice a democratic system of governance of any sort.

It is why political parties are not membership based, and why they are characterised by the weakness of, or absence of internal democracy.

By our laws, every legislator at federal and state level representing a designated federal or state constituency is expected to have a functional constituency office. However, the practice is that in a majority of cases there are no constituency offices, and in the few cases where there is an office, it is neither staffed nor functional, and is seldom open for activities.

It is important to note that the primary rationale for the existence of constituency offices, which is mandatory by law, and the upkeep of which each legislator receives allowances and funding, is to ensure that there exist a designated forum and arena, for a structured engagement between the elected legislators and their constituents.

The constituency office is expected to provide the interface for the citizens as constituents to engage with their elected representatives on key policy and other governance issues as it relates to the discharge of the functions of Oversighting executive action, making laws for the wellbeing of the citizens and peace of the federation, and that of qualitative representation, through a process of engagement that enables the aggregation of the interests and views and concerns of constituents such that these can then be channelled to influence and shape governance.

The absence or weakness of such key institutional components of our democratic practice, creates an environment that limits and constrains citizens participation in governance, and the democratic process.

This is one clear potential terrain for the active engagement of organised social forces and formations of the people, to build popular power from below, towards deepening the democratisation process.

 

POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE POLITICAL ELITE:

Any serious, critical and rational analysis of our democratic experience since 1999 cannot but conclude that the most serious threat, the clear and present danger to our democracy is the political elite, the ruling class and their political parties.

The experience since the inception of the fourth republic has shown clearly that the political parties organised by the different factions and fractions of the ruling elite have been nothing other than organised criminal enterprises, put together for the sole purpose of grabbing political power, and with this, gaining unhindered access and or control of the levers of economic power and the treasury.

The political parties of the ruling class factions are united by only one purpose the quest for primitive accumulation of wealth by individuals and alliances of individuals.

The parties are not membership based; members are recruited as stocks to be traded on the political stock exchanges by the chief brokers called Godfathers. The parties have no shared and commonly owned programs, policy thrusts, national visions, etc. And although documents like constitution and party manifestoes exist in fulfilment of the requirement of the law, the constitution of the party is routinely breached and broken by party stakeholders, while the manifesto has no meaning, or significance to the party and its membership beyond its existence.

Little wonder that a class incapable of observing its own party constitution, behaves with impunity in public office with respect to serial breaches of the country’s constitution and laws. A political class with scant or no interest in its own party manifesto as an instrument to shape policy debates for governance, will also have scant or no interest in practice and deployment of processes towards systematic policy formulation and consistent policy implementation for good governance while in government. Furthermore, a political class, that runs its political parties without consultation and to the exclusion of the majority of its membership, will also not be interested in, or be able to practice widespread consultation and deploy inclusive processes for good governance while in office.

On none of the pressing existential challenges facing the country can we point to what approximates the clearly articulated, and commonly shared official position and policy of any of the main parties of the ruling class. It is why it easy for politicians to move from party to party at will, with impunity, without consequence, and with no real impact on our national development trajectory.

The nature and character of our ruling political elites and their political parties has thus become the most significant obstacle on the part of popular participation in governance to deepen the democratisation process. One of the main task for the process of building popular power from below, is the urgent necessity to build new types of mass based, human development oriented political parties.

 

APPROPRIATION POWERS OF THE FEDERATION;

A further contentious area in the contemporary practice of Nigeria’s polity is the contention between the Executive and Legislature over passage of annual budgets or appropriation laws.

Sections 80, 81, & 82 of the 1999 constitution makes copious an seemingly unambiguous provisions with respect to the power to appropriate.

This is vested in the legislative assembly. However, with respect to the appropriations act and the annual budget, the constitutions vest the power to prepare the estimates and to lay it before the legislative assembly in the President or Governor of a state, that is in the Executive arm of government; while vesting the power to consider and approve the estimates in the legislature.

The implication is that the constitution in keeping with the principle of separation of powers vests the power to prepare and lay the estimates in the Executive; while vesting the power to consider and approve in the Legislature.

It stands to reason that the power to approve includes the power to reject, while the power to consider also includes the power to vary the estimates.

However, the power to reject and vary the estimates made and presented by the Executive cannot be deemed to be so broad as to imply the power to significantly alter the estimates.

Once the prepared estimates are significantly altered, it becomes the usurpation of the power to prepare.

It is this delicate balance between varying and significant alteration that needs to be maintained and jealously guarded.

It requires a significant level of political maturing of the operators of the constitution, combined with a significant level of understanding of national interest for this delicate balance to work effectively.

Alas, unfortunately we are saddled with a political elite and ruling class consumed by greed and selfishness, and incapable of appreciating and promoting collective interests.

 

CONCLUSION: BUILDING POPULAR POWER FROM BELOW;

What roles therefore can we as progressive forces and social formations play in reinventing politics and citizenship? In what ways might we organise to build popular power from below to enhance popular participation in the democratic experience and deepen the democratisation of our polity and our social reality. How might we play such roles? What have been the obstacles to our effectively playing this role?

How might we organise and mobilise around issues such as the structural fault lines identified above, in a manner that can help to galvanise a popular mass movement, and enable the building of popular power from below?

The role of progressive social forces is to understand the conditions of living and working of the mass of the people; the nature of their domination, subjugation and exploitation; the nature of their exclusion; to bring this knowledge to the wider populace, and use it in facilitating the organisation and mobilisation of the resistance of the subordinate classes and fractions, and excluded groups. Our task is to work with the victims of the system in making them conscious of the reasons for their conditions, and working together to organise and mobilise the kind of platforms and movements; and the methods of struggle that can enable them not only to influence power, but to essentially transform power; such that they become the subjects and not objects of their own societal existence.

In undertaking this task, it is important for us to understand the necessity and urgency of intervening in the routine day to day survival struggles of our people, while understanding the utmost importance of prioritizing the political struggle for power. This is because ultimately it is through political power, state power, that the building or transformation of modern society is coordinated. Those who control access to power and who wield power are the ones who lead the shaping of society, and whose influence and interests are predominantly reflected in the social transformation process.

Several other lessons can be summarised from our history of struggle; And we do have an historic opportunity, opened up by the window of the January Uprising of 2012, an opportunity limited in time and space.

The crisis of governance has reached such an extent that the ruling class is in a state of heightened internal crisis. The ruling party is on the brink of a catastrophic implosion; while the opposition parties are in a hasty race to pull together a contraption strong enough to supplant the imploding ruling party. Both the ruling party and the merging opposition are united by the fact that they seek power not in order to transform society or ease the burden on citizens; but to have access to the collective wealth of society, in order to gain or retain the right of plunder.

But because the January Uprising has radicalized and politicized hundreds of thousands, if not millions of citizens, this intra ruling class political crisis is taking place within a historically different context; in the context of a socially and politically awakening citizenry.

Here in lies the historic opportunity; How do we intervene as progressive social forces, in a manner that hastens and quickens the level, intensity of the political radicalization of the citizenry; and facilitates the conversion of raw anger into political determination; and which transforms emerging active citizens into political activists for social transformation. How can we gain political capital from the January Uprising?

There are a number of options; we can facilitate a process whereby the ruling elite politicians become the beneficiary of the anger and increasing radicalization and politicisation of the citizenry. So we can help the opposition to harness this anger, and to come to power, in the hope that in power the opposition will behave differently from its class twin, and commit class suicide.

Or we can actually work together with the broadened constituency opened up to us since the January  Uprising, to build alternative political platforms, independent of ruling class parties, and autonomous of ruling elite influence; and use this platform to build up a mass political momentum towards the general the electoral space with the ruling class in the first instance; and bid for state power with the parties of the ruling elite, on the basis of our own social program of transformation, one that if implemented will enable us carry out a most far reaching redefinition and broadening of the boundaries of politics and citizenship in our country.

We need to build political parties of a fundamentally new type, parties of the social movements, a movement party. We need a movement party that can take the street and the protest movement into parliament and bring the parliament and politics into the street.

For me there can be only one choice; to build alternative, independent and autonomous political platform to among other things contest political power with the parties of the ruling class; realising that state power is located is located in different centres of society.

The former choice is a manifestation of our continued implementation of the policy of self-limitation; wherein we underestimate our capacity; and we make ourselves available as junior partners in alliances with so called progressive wings of the ruling class, and or with reformist bureaucracies of labour centres.

And the end result of self-limitation? Co-optation of individual leaders and leading activists, and the destruction or weakening of our movements, by the ruling class!