Popular Power for Social Transformation; The 2012 Occupy Nigeria Uprising Context By Jaye Gaskia
In this year of the centenary of the 1914 amalgamation; in this year of a politicised and potentially very disruptive, rather than constructive National Dialogue process; on the eve of the 2015 general elections; in the vortex of the test runs of the Ekiti and Osun elections; and in the dark shadows of the rumblings within the treasury looting ruling elites; it is perhaps very important that we pause, and undertake a collective recollection of our January Uprising of 2012!
It is now two years, that is 24 months, or 730 days since the that instructive turning point in the January Uprising, with the entrance of the organised working class in formal and informal sectors into the fledgling protests on January 9th 2012! For it was on that day with the commencement of the general strike, combined with a nationwide protest, that what began unconsciously on the 2nd of January 2012, and took off more consciously from 3rd January 2012, became transformed from a National Protest Movement into a Nationwide Uprising of Revolutionary dimensions; with inherent capability and capacity not only to overthrow a regime; but to actually initiate the overthrow of a system responsible for sustaining reprehensible regimes!
For let there be no doubts about it, the January Uprising, emerged, evolved and became an integral part of a global general revolutionary crises. Just as the Occupy movement in the US and across Europe, as well as the Arab spring in the MENA region, were glorious chapters in the global history of the resistance of the exploited and subordinate classes to the corrupt laden, repressive and inhumane rule of the exploiting rule classes everywhere; so too did ordinary Nigerians also write their own chapter in that global history, with the January Uprising!
The January Uprising in its elements and mode of manifestation; as well as in the way it unfolded clearly fulfilled the three conditions identified by one of the giants of the Revolutionary Movement of the 20th century; Lenin. What are these conditions? First that the ruling classes will no longer be able to rule in the old ways. Well the treasury looting ruling class in Nigeria could no longer rule in the old ways, it could no longer guarantee treasury looting mode of accumulation without doing something drastic; hence it’s being compelled to hike the price of petrol as a means of transferring the cost of corruption from the state treasury, to individual pockets. What the regime wanted was not to deal with the corruption laden processes around the subsidy regime, by catching thieves and prosecuting them, and by taking steps to restore domestic refining capacity and sanitising the whole sector; what the regime wanted instead was to continue to close its eyes to the corruption being perpetrated and perpetuated by its own officials and cronies; and instead focus on shifting the cost of oiling the corruption enterprise to ordinary citizens. For without our Uprising the number of importers would have by now ballooned to more than 400 entities; and daily consumption rate would have by now probably topped more than 100 million litters per day!
The second condition is that the exploited, ruled and subordinate classes would no longer allow themselves to be ruled in the old ways! This was manifested in the anger on the streets, and in the scale and scope of the uprising – at least 55 cities/towns were shut down!
The third condition was that the middle classes forever vacillating between the ruling and working classes, would be pulled into side with the exploited classes. The January Uprising was also a testimony to the manifestation of this third condition. Middle class elements sought to be part of the uprising; they negotiated places on the podiums at the various centres of the uprising; and middle class youth in particular thronged to the streets to join the uprising.
What is more? In the fear and panic that the uprising sowed into the hearts and minds of the ruling class in power; in the way and manner that dissident factions of the ruling class in opposition sought to play up the ‘Regime – Change’, as opposed to the subconscious ‘System-Change’ yearnings of the masses; it was very clearly obvious that the Ruling class in and out of power recognised the Revolutionary Potential of the January Uprising! But it was not only the ruling class that recognised this revolutionary and radical transformative nature of the Uprising; the exploited and subordinate classes, including the middle classes also recognised this potential which was becoming increasingly activated! And this fact could be glimpsed from two seemingly contradictory processes; The unconscious recoil of a majority of the leadership of the Uprising, in particular, the labour wing of that leadership, from revolution, and pulling the ladder from under the feet of the uprising by summarily calling it off just as it reached its height! This is the first instance. The second instance, is to glimpsed from the anger of the ordinary masses and a minority of the leadership of the uprising regarding the abrupt, undemocratic, and non-consultative and exclusive manner of the calling off of the general strike and mass protests, thus taking the winds out of the sail of the uprising. The masses engaged in the uprising recognised instinctively its revolutionarily transformative character and wanted to push further; a majority of the leadership also recognising this revolutionary potential, and afraid of the uncharted waters it would lead to, recoiled and pulled back abruptly!
So in what ways was the January Uprising representative of the process of exercise of popular power in a manner that precipitates or at least envisages radical social transformation? The series of attempts, half hearted and insincere as they were, towards undertaking massive reforms in the system, were all down to the gains of our Uprising. All the series of probe panels along with their reports, the emboldening of the NASS to undertake new probes; the new courage imbibed by the Minister of Finance and the CBN to put in place processes to scrutinise the system; all of these were occasioned by our Uprising!
The most significant change and outcome of the January Uprising however must be located in its nature as becoming the life transforming and single most important life changing and life defining process in the life of a generation! It marked the grand entrance of this generation of Nigerian youths into the historical political stage; they were part of a process of monumental change, in the course of which they stamped their character on the process [the role played by the social media platforms then and since then in our collective struggles – recall the campaign against the NASS, the ChildNotBride campaign among others]; but it the course of which they were also transformed! So quite a significant number of youths have since become active citizens, speaking out and organising action against social injustices! And this was the same generation labelled as unserious, and described in dismissive terms before the uprising?
And although the ruling class will not want to admit this; the renewed boldness of the opposition as well as dissident factions within the treasury looting ruling class; the ability of the opposition to cobble together a power grabbing vehicle which could accommodate them, and absorb dissidents from the ruling party, amidst all the centrifugal and centripetal tensions; is all down to the revival of citizen resistance, as well as renewed confidence of ordinary citizens that change is possible; which was fostered and nurtured by the deep ferments of the January Uprising.
Let us conclude by looking very briefly at the historical significance of the January Uprising in this year of the centenary of the amalgamation, in this year of the national dialogue, and on the eve of the 2015 general elections.
The lessons that we need to identify, learn and internalise from our experience in the January Uprising is not only that change is possible, and radical and revolutionarily transformative change at that; but also that we ourselves are capable of being the agents of revolutionary transformation of our society.
It is important that we understand that in our organising, and in our mobilising, we have the critical mass to transform the system, and enthrone the regime and system responsive to our own needs instead of the greed of the parasitic thieving ruling elites; responsive and responsible to our own aspirations as victims of misrule and corruption, rather than to the aspirations of the victimisers, those whose actions and inactions are responsible for our victimisation.
If we act, if we organise and mobilise as we did during the January Uprising; if we internalise the lessons inherent in both our successes and failures during that Uprising; then it will be possible for us to seize the initiative, seize the momentum, in the National Dialogue processes, as well as in the preparations for the 2015 general elections, and bend the Arc of National Liberation, Social Emancipation, and the radical remaking of our nation and social transformation of societal life in our country in our favour, towards our interests and aspirations.
In so doing, perhaps we can achieve for ourselves and future generations of our people, what the 1914 amalgamation, the decades of British colonial rule and occupation, as well as the decades of indigenous Nigeria ruling class misrule, and treasury looting spree was not able to achieve for us: The Emergence of a True, Socially Just, United, Diverse Nigeria Nation, Nation state and citizenship.
This is a task that has now been shown to be historically beyond the capacity of our thieving ruling class, along with all its diverse ethnic and religious thieving fractions and factions! This is a task that stands a chance of being fulfilled only by a new generation of Nigerians, Forged and refined in the crucible of our recent popular Uprisings – The youths of the Anti- Military campaigns and the June 12 Uprising, who also came to provide the radical leadership for the January Uprising; as well as the generation that made the January Uprising in the context of a still subsisting global revolutionary ferment!
It is upto us to embrace our historical duty, to step forward once again unto the historical stage, and to take concrete steps in 2014 to Take Back Nigeria from the death grip of this gluttonous, light fingered, treasury looting ruling elite and class!
In 2014, because of the historic significance of the year, because of the historically significant nature of the processes that will be unfolding in the course of the year – the National Dialogue, and preparations for the 2015 general elections; Our Destiny is very literally In Our Own Hands!
The generation of the Anti-military struggle, of the June 12 Uprising, and of the January Uprising, must insist and take steps to ensure that it plays a central and decisive role in the National Dialogue process, and that it plays a frontline role in determining the future of this country at the National Dialogue, and on the road to 2015!
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