THE NIGERIA PRO-DEMOCRACY CONFERENCE 2021: Rethinking the Moment; building citizens alternative movement beyond

Femi Falana, Chairman, The Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference 2021

Dr Isaac Osuoka cautioned active citizens that the Nigerian crisis is an enormous one that requires an urgent individual involvement in collective struggles informed by a clear and alternative vision for reclaiming and transforming the state. He made this profound statement in a welcome charge at the National Prodemocracy Conference for 2021 which was held at the Lagos Airport Hotels Ikeja Lagos. In the address read on his behalf by the Programs Coordinator, Isaac Botti, the Executive Director of Social Action stressed the need to work towards a process that can utilize such moments as presented by the #EndSars to build sustainable and enduring structures of popular power. He concluded by calling for a manifesto on how the colonial state can be recreated into a community that taps from the strength of the people to advance the historic cause. The philosophy must define how to manage the ownership and control of means of production, addresses the rights and relationship of nationalities

Solidarity Messages of Collaborators

Angela Odah of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation sent her solidarity message via live video conferencing and congratulated all partners involved in the conference’s organization as well as all activists and comrades present for their commitment to Nigeria and belief that the deliberations will bring solutions to Nigeria’s issues.

Dr. Chido Onumah, Executive Director of AFRIMIL, said that the political class cannot address the ongoing situation in 2023. Besides dealing with the present administration’s failings, he says the future president would have to deal with critical concerns like separatist movements in the South-East and South-West. Unless these difficulties and challenges are tackled with ingenuity, intelligence, and resolve, the country will continue to drift from crisis to catastrophe.

Democracy has failed to benefit Nigerians in terms of improved living conditions and access to essential services. According to CISLAC Executive Director Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the Nigerian state has faced serious challenges such as civil strife, electoral disputes, and high youth unemployment. Pro-democracy and human rights activists may improve democratic systems. Security must be addressed to boost socioeconomic activity, create employment, and decrease hunger. He highlighted that the government must prioritize the rule of law and human rights because this is the only way Nigerians can understand democracy.

From (L-R) Affiong Affiong, Gaye Gaskiya, Toye Olorode, Femi Falana, Owei Lakemfa, Chido Onumah, Chiemeke Onyeisi
From (L-R) Affiong Affiong, Gaye Gaskiya, Toye Olorode, Femi Falana, Owei Lakemfa, Chido Onumah, Chiemeke Onyeisi

Chairman’s Opening Remarks- Comrade Femi Falana (SAN)

The chairman of the conference, Femi Falana (SAN) in his opening remarks gave a brief history of lawlessness in Nigeria- a litany of lawlessness from Lekki, to Mushin, to Kaduna and illiteracy and fear of arrest as a reason most downtrodden people never speak out. He paid particular attention to the lawlessness in the handling of the #EndSars panels, the double-speak of LCC and the deliberate attempt to confuse the Nigerian people. He warned that the struggle ahead is getting tougher and tougher, the political class can never change unless there is a new party to take power. A political party that will defend the interest of Nigerians, not a party of loan collectors, not a “dollarize” party. This system is at its best, it can’t do beyond what is happening now.

Keynote Presentation- Professor Toye Olorode

According to Professor Toye Olorode we now face the dynamics of our people’s fights and the forces that sabotage them, both inside and external to our organization. A New Nigeria can now be established with the masses of our people, employing all means of production, distribution and trade to serve their wants without endangering their future or long-standing unity, he said in his keynote remarks. Olorode noted, however, that the imperialist thieves (IMF, WTO, WTO) and their multinational businesses continue to deploy ministerial, technocratic, contractor, and consultant staff to monitor the privatization of public assets and the devaluation of the Naira. Rather than individual heroics, resolving the foregoing paradoxes demands extraordinary collaborative efforts. “We will continually evaluate our progress towards a socialist Nigeria”, he said.

Brief Comments on the State of the Nation

With Nigeria at a crossroads and people disillusioned with the two major political parties, the #EndSars was a response to general difficulties on the ground, according to Barrister Rasheedat Adeshina. We have a historical obligation to provide the people what they need, she argues. Power doesn’t wait; we must begin immediately.

According to Barrister Chima Williams, we need alternative political manifestos since the individuals formulating policies are unqualified, we need to go beyond campaigns and advocacy, and we must think about power or stay at the hands of those in power who use authority to enrich themselves. We need to discuss solutions and a new political platform. It’s about power, he said.

Comrade Owei Lakenfa thinks a shift in the existing exploitative capitalist system is required for a more compassionate society to emerge. They hide their flaws by borrowing from communist systems, posing as liberals, but we all know who the true owners are. Comrade Lakenfa prefers the socialist system because capitalists believe in individual profit accumulation whereas socialists believe in corporate profit accrual. Lack of ideological capitalism is a degrading system, and many comrades end up selling their souls to Satan through godfathers and donor agencies.

Ken Henshaw The Nigerian nation is in a crisis, the country is a shambles, and it has never been this awful. The administration is actively attempting to make life harder for ordinary Nigerians. The master’s tools will never enable us to bring about meaningful change. Change comes only every four years, via elections. We need to go from advocacy to revolution. Our only hope is to alter the system, not the masters.

Panelists (L-R) Affiong Affiong, Jaye Gaskiya (Moderator), Betty Abah, Chiemeke Onyeisi,
Panelists (L-R) Affiong Affiong, Jaye Gaskiya (Moderator), Betty Abah, Chiemeke Onyeisi

 

The panel discussion session on the keynote presentation and the state of the nation was moderated by Comrade Jaiye Gaskiya and had Affiong Affiong, Betty Abah and Chiemeke Onyisi as panelists.

The Moderator Jaiye Gaskiya, highlights the tasks of the panel and also states clearly that the theme does exclude 2023 and not just beyond 2023. We know the goal, but how do we do what ought to be done and how to get there.

A summary of the Contributions by the panelist;

Barrister Chiemeke Onyeisi

We must learn from Latin America, using Peru as a case study, how they have been able to take over power despite losing out in the past. The past generation of revolutionaries hoped for the revolution and lost hope and moved into Non-Governmental Organizations but NGO’S do not take overpower. The example of the Black Panthers; how they were able to achieve so much through the introduction of Medical Insurance which the American state later copied. The consistency of action is the key to survival.

Affiong Affiong

According to Comrade Affiong, having the PVC to alter what is existing cannot work unless we organize for change. Nigeria is a neocolony, but with black criminals replacing European colonists and we need to mobilize a national movement against neocolonial systems. We must first propagate the message that black criminals have supplanted white criminals in robbing our commonwealth. Imperialism is a global system it can only be defeated with global efforts. Think globally act locally!

Betty Abah

We must be particular in inclusiveness, we must build a movement that carries everybody along. A movement that is very diverse, that attracts all sorts of people. Women and children are the most affected by state terroristic acts, we must speak for them and be seen to speak for them. We must involve the women that have felt the pinch of terror from the present system. We must infuse the energy of young people, we must carry them along. We must be dynamic in our approach, an inter-generational dialogue must happen.

A cross-section of participants at the conference
A cross-section of participants at the conference

Contribution from the audience and online participants agreed on the need for an alternative political platform and encouraged the message to be taken to the grassroots- to the critical masses who form a major part of the electorates. A network with sympathizers of our ideology was also suggested to have an all-inclusive platform to bring together everyone that believes in this course. In addition to these suggestions, some comrades emphasized that we must be prepared and organize for a revolution

 

Barrister Onyeisi encouraged participants as thinkers of an alternative political system to learn from Latin America, namely Peru, how they have risen to prominence despite previous defeats. The previous generation of revolutionaries lost hope and migrated into Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), but NGOs do not capture power. The Black Panthers achieved so much by introducing Medical Insurance, which the American state eventually emulated. Action consistency is vital for life.

Comrade Affiong believes that using the PVC to change the status quo is ineffective. Nigeria is a neocolony, but with black criminals replacing European colonists. We must propagate the narrative that black thieves have replaced white ones in plundering our country. Imperialism is a global system that requires worldwide action. Do-it-yourself!

Betty Abah feels that we must establish a movement that includes everyone- a movement that draws individuals from all walks of life. State terrorism affects women and children the most; we must speak and be seen to advocate for them. She insisted we must include the women who have been terrorized by the current system and also enliven and inspire the youth using a dynamic strategy and an intergenerational interaction.

Audience

In their comments, the audience and online participants agreed on the necessity for a new political platform and urged spreading the message throughout the critical masses. An all-inclusive platform with admirers of our ideas was also recommended. Apart from that, several comrades stressed the need to plan and organize for a revolution.

#ENDSARS: THE MILITARY COMMITTED MASSACRE AT LEKKI TOLLGATE

Nigerian Military men The LeaderNg

The Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which is investigating incidents of police brutality in Lagos, has determined that the conduct of armed military personnel and police officers against innocent youths at the Lekki Tollgate amounted to a massacre. This summation appears in the final report delivered to the state governor on November 16, 2021, a little more than a year after its inauguration and first sitting in Lagos. This revelation is anticipated to put an end to a year-long debate about whether the soldiers truly committed a massacre.

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THE PLIGHT OF OGONIS HIGHLIGHTED AS CRC JOINS TO CELEBRATE OGONI DAY

Members of CRC Bori, after the meeting

Ogoniland is one of the most polluted areas in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where decades of reckless petroleum industry practices have severely devasted the environment. The Ogoni, an ethnic nation in Rivers State, waged peaceful struggles against oil pollution from the 1990s. Under the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), community members organised protests against the oil companies and the government. The Ogoni demanded recognition of their cultural rights and their rights to livelihoods. Although oil companies produced and exported billions of dollars worth of petroleum from the Ogoniland, the wealth generated from this region does not correspond with the underdevelopment of the area. The communities still lack basic amenities like good drinking water, equipped medical centres and adequate housing. The Ogoni demanded resource control to enable the Ogoni to develop badly needed infrastructure and social services.

It was for this course that Kenule Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni ethnic activists were killed by the military junta of General Sani Abacha in 1995. The murder of Ken Saro Wiwa was a devastating blow to the Ogoni people as the Prolific writer and environmental Activist dedicated his life to fighting for the marginalized people of Ogoni who lived in abject poverty despite being part of the goose that lays the golden egg.

Marking the 26th Anniversary of the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others recently in Bori, Civil Rights Council collaborated with other Ogoni leaders to speak up on the needs of the Ogoni people, while demanding the exoneration of late Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni martyrs that were brutally murdered. Speaking at the event held at the traditional headquarters of the Anglican Church Bori, the Zonal Chairman and spokesman of Civil Rights Council, Comrade Dumka Deemua, expressed the need to halt any form of oil exploration in Ogoni land for the best interest of the people as the land needs to heal.

Land and environmental devastation due to oil pollution

Corroborating Deemua’s statement in his goodwill message, the leader of the Ogoni People Assembly, (OPA) Comrade Williams Probel also stressed the need for not just an exoneration by the federal government but an apology to the families of the deceased who lost their sons in the face of the struggle on the 10th of November 1995. Other prominent sons of Ogoni who spoke were Comrade Aluzim Emmanuel, Professor Zabbey of CERHD and others. Their speeches were targeted at awakening the consciousness of the struggle amongst the Ogoni people and the need for the people to always live with that consciousness in view. Prayers sessions and goodwill messages by religious leaders were crucial parts of the event as the clergymen seized the opportunity to encourage the people to embrace peace and love in the face of the struggle.

Ogoni day is celebrated every 10th of November to mark the death of the six Ogoni activists and to draw attention to the plight of the Ogonis and the devastation of Ogoniland and the need for urgent remediation of the land and environment.

APPROACH TO PROMOTING ACCOUNTABILITY, INCLUSIVE AND EFFICIENT SERVICE DELIVERY BY THE NDDC

Group photograph of participants of the Town Hall Meeting

As part of the effort toward Strengthening Civic and Community Actions against Corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC”, under a project supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Social Action organized a town hall meeting in Benin City, the capital of Edo state to x-ray community approach to promoting accountability, inclusive and efficient service delivery by the NDDC. The town hall meeting was attended by community leaders from across the state, religious leaders, government officials from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, women groups and members of the PWDs. It focused on strengthening citizens’ participation in the NDDC budgeting process and the implementation to ensure inclusive and effective service delivery across the region. The meeting also opened space for citizens and duty bearers to interact on how collaboration between community structure and NDDC could be enhanced such that projects implemented by NDDC reflect the yearnings of the people.

A cross-section of participants at the Town Hall Meeting on Community approach to promoting accountability, inclusive and efficient service delivery by the NDDC

While setting the tone for the discussion, the Programmes Coordinator of Social Action, Isaac Botti in his opening remarks noted that the Niger Delta region has remained underdeveloped despite being the region where over N100 Trillion naira has accrued to the nation from oil extraction activities. He noted, sadly, that 21 years after the creation of the NDDC as an intervention agency to ameliorate the negative impact of oil exploration in the Niger Delta, the region is still living in a deplorable state of environmental, social and economic deprivation. He blamed the lacklustre performance of the NDDC on the lack of engagement by citizens and citizens’ groups with the Commission which has now created the culture of endemic corruption in the institution. He noted that citizens have the key role of independently over-sighting the activities of the NDDC to ensure that they deliver on services that would benefit all in the community. Isaac, therefore, charged participants at the meeting to take advantage of the occasion to come up with concrete strategies and ways to effectively engage NDDC for improved and efficient service delivery.

While delivering a presentation of “Budget as a veritable tool for effective service delivery; a community approach”, Isaac stressed the need for Niger Delta citizens to be part of the NDDC budget development process. He highlighted areas of windows of opportunities for citizens to engage in the budgeting process and participate in the implementation. Isaac noted that corruption thrives in an atmosphere of docility; that when citizens are not concerned with how the budget is developed, they are indirectly creating a breeding ground for corruption.

Panelists making their contributions at the Town Hall Meeting
Panelists making their contributions at the Town Hall Meeting

Panelists at the meeting lamented the level of corruption in the NDDC system. They noted, with regrets, how the government and the management of NDDC have deliberately marginalized the people in the process of delivery on essential public goods by concealing important fiscal documents such as the budget from the public. The panelists pointed out how some persons including people living with disabilities are mostly affected by the poor service delivery by the NDDC. Members of the PWDs and women groups present at the panel lamented the poor state of infrastructure and how it affects them. They, therefore, call for a collaborative approach- a working relationship between community people and NDDC to ensure inclusive and efficient service delivery.

In responding to both the presentation and the panel discussion, participants expressed their pleasure with and appreciated the opportunity to be invited to the meeting. They decried the process of building projects into the NDDC budget without consultation with the people the projects are meant to serve. They called on the government to make conscious plans to ensure that community leaders are carried along in their plans. They also urge traditional leaders present to do their best in advancing the interest of the people and ensuring that the people are carried along. Their recommendations also included the incorporation of persons with disabilities to be involved in the planning and budgeting process of the NDDC Projects, in line with global best practices. Finally, they warned against the use of NDDC for political patronage and called on the President to make the forensic audit report available to the public

ANTI-CORRUPTION NETWORK TO COLLABORATE WITH THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION

Group picture of members of the Rivers Anti-corruption network with The EFFC boss and their public relations office

Findings of investigations carried out on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) initiated by the legislative and executive arms of the federal government of Nigeria indicate a high rate of corruption evident in contract racketeering, payments for fictitious contracts, award and payment for ridiculous staff bonuses and project abandonment, to mention a few. Despite the huge sums of money released to the NDDC as an intervention agency since its inception, the Niger Delta communities continue to experience a steady decline in social and economic standards.

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ENDSARS PROTEST, ONE YEAR LATER

Car procession at the Lekki Toll Gate marking the one year anniversary of the end-sars protest

The bottled-up anger of many youths against the Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS, was a major driver of a series of protests that rocked many major cities in Nigeria in late 2020. The #EndSaes protest that materialized into a movement, even though it never had a central leadership, had thousands of youths in different parts of the country come out to lend their voice against police brutality and the call for the scrapping of the special unit. The youth also called for the reform of the police and an improvement of the remuneration and working condition of officers.

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END-SARS ANNIVERSARY: SOCIAL ACTION JOINS OTHER CSOs TO DEMAND FOR POSITIVE TRANSFORMATION IN GOVERNANCE

Panelists at the Press conference (L-R: Comrade Oladimeji Macaulay, Rafiu Adediran Lawal and Godwin Kingsley)

As part of the activities to mark the first anniversary of the 2020 #ENDSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria, Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action participated in a press conference organized by the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS).
The event which was held in Social Action’s Conference Hall, Abuja on the 20th of October, 2021 created a forum for civil society organizations, members of the press as well as concerned citizens to commemorate the anniversary of the Lekki Tollgate killings, deliberate on the significance of the #EndSARS movement and the continuous shrinking civic space in Nigeria.

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THE TOWN HALL MEETING ON PROMOTING PROBITY IN THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

Attendees listen as the Project Coordinator of Social Action, Comrade Botti Isaac gives his welcome address.

At the Town Hall Meeting held in Port Harcourt, titled “Promoting Probity in the NDDC to Rebuild Accountability Tenet and Public Trust”, organized by Social Action with support from the MacArthur Foundation, citizens of the region decried the lukewarm attitude of the federal government with regard to the forensic audit. They expressed disappointment over what they perceived as deliberate efforts to protect cronies and politically exposed persons who have been indicted by the forensic report. They noted that there is no possible explanation for the delay in making the forensic report public except for possible cover-up or editing of the report. They further lamented the deplorable state of infrastructure across the region, noting that NDDC has failed to meet this massive infrastructural gap. They, therefore, call for an immediate investigation into the alleged 12,000 abandoned projects and contracts. That they should be held accountable for the trillions wasted on those projects.

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#ENDSARS: ONE YEAR AFTER, HUMAN RIGHTS MELTDOWN, REPRESSION PERSISTS 

Democracy and human rights are recognized as inextricably connected, but the Muhammadu Buhari-led government has always de-emphasized that link. The #EndSars protest and the atrocious breaches of human rights before, during, and after the period of the protests across the country provides sobering evidence that this government is increasingly fueling human rights violations. 

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