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Wither the Left in Nigeria? 0

Most contemporary observers of Nigerian politics would be surprised to learn that the Left has been a significant part of the country’s postcolonial history.

Nowadays, the Left includes various groups, ranging from NGOs to pro-democracy and anti-government groups, but my use of the term is restricted to a particular historical process that shaped the establishment, formation and cooperation of different organizations with allegiance to a Marxism-Leninist forms of political economy in post-colonial Nigeria.

Nigeria’s political independence is often credited to nationalist leaders, such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello. In the process, commentators minimize the heroic role played by the Labor movement (led by Chief Imoudu), the Zikist movement (led by Chief Mokwugo Okoye) and other Left organizations.

The general strike of 1945 marked the beginning of the struggle that end in the termination of colonial rule in Nigeria in 1960. The Left remained a power after independence, as well. In 1960 for example, protest against a British request to set up a permanent British military base in Nigeria was organized by leftist students and workers, preventing Nigeria from becoming a military outpost of a dying British empire.

This robust Left tradition would continue from independence through the periods of military rule in Nigeria. However, three events in the late 1980s and early 1990s spelled the fate of the Left in Nigeria.

General Ibrahim Babangida came to power in a military coup in 1985, ousting General Muhammadu Buhari, who had overthrown a short-lived elected government (the same Buhari who is the country’s current democratically elected president). In 1986 Babangida, presenting himself as a reformer, appointed the Cookey Commission to chart Nigeria’s political future. The commission—composed of leading leftists–advocated for, among other things: social justice, a return to democracy, and a socialist state. The military rejected most of the recommendations, particularly the one that proposed transition to a socialist state. Babangida also pushed through an IMF loan that the Left vehemently opposed.

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by Omolade Adunbi

Photo credits: Getty Images

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