Home Opinion ‘Insecurity’ in Nigeria: What can the Left do? by Edwin Madunagu

‘Insecurity’ in Nigeria: What can the Left do? by Edwin Madunagu


Reflections on the current “insecurity” and “threatening state failure”
in Nigeria – and what the Nigerian Left can do – recently led me, in a
tortuous manner, back to a formulation on revolutionary intervention
which I thought I had transcended long ago. We shall first discuss the
formulation and then come to “insecurity” and “threatening state

The formulation was provided by a Leftist revolutionary about 115
years ago. The revolutionary was young (about 27), idealistic and
romantic. But he was idealistic and romantic not simply because he
was young, but essentially because he was brilliant and came to
revolutionary consciousness, and then to Marxism, through a unique
set of routes and experiences that together resembled a series of
leaps through early life.

His name was Leon Trotsky, a name he stole on his escape from a
prison warder who was assigned to secure him in detention. This
incident alone – escaping from a guard and stealing the guard’s name
and retaining it – was sufficient for both the revolutionary movement
that received him and the Russian state that was looking for him to
view the “small boy” as an “evil genius”.

Leon Trotsky published his romantic formulation in 1906, after the
failed 1905 Russian Revolution in which he played a significant role.
Here it goes: “Revolution can be achieved either by a nation gathering
itself together like a lion preparing to spring, or by a nation in the
process of struggle becoming conclusively divided in order to free the
best part of itself for the execution of those tasks which the nation as
a whole is unable to carry out. A middle course in this, as in so many
cases, is the worst of all. But it was this middle course that developed
in 1848…”.

This formulation can be found in Leon Trotsky’s 1906 book, Results
and Prospects. In it he analysed the 1905 Russian Revolution by
comparing it with both the 1797 French Revolution and the
European Revolutions of 1848. It was from this exercise that the
young revolutionary saw three possible revolutionary paths to the
future: the nation “gathering itself together like a lion preparing to


spring” or the nation “in the process of struggle being conclusively
divided …”, or, the nation being trapped in a “middle course”, that is,
being neither able to “spring” as a united entity nor able to free its
virile segments to do the “springing”. He saw the 1797 French
Revolution as an example of the first, the Russian Revolution of 1905
as an example of the second and the 1848 Revolutions that swept
Western Europe as an example of the third.
The “middle course” was the most difficult revolutionary path, said
Trotsky. Of course, it was, and it remains so, especially in the way he
painted the picture. But if Trotsky had been able to bring in the role
of the vanguard or vanguards in each of his three “possibilities”, and
speak of “strategic revolutionary intervention”, rather than
ambitiously speaking of “revolution”, his formulation would have been
significantly revised and made more practically usable by young
revolutionaries – beyond simply “firing” them.

Though the Russian event took place a long time ago and in a distant
land, I was emotionally involved in it. However, in early 1982, I was
more than emotionally involved in a similar discussion. But this time
around the event took place near home, in Ghana. It was the popular
uprising led by Flt-Lt Jerry Rawlings, an event that spontaneously
attracted several revolutionary Marxists, radical Leftists and
progressive writers from Africa and beyond to Ghana.

In one particular meeting a young member of the revolutionary
council, an army sergeant, argued strongly that the unfolding event
in Ghana should be compared to the French Revolution of 1797 and
not to the Russian Revolution of 1917 – in terms of the range of
classes and strata and political forces that each put on the stage of
history. He was still arguing when the meeting adjourned. As far as I
can remember, his analysis and opinion did not carry much
ideological or practical weight.

The question that arises today is this: What difference would it have
made in those days if the young radical army sergeant had won the
debate and his opinion had defined the course of actions that
followed the uprising? My answer is that probably there would not
have been much difference if there was no clarity about the character
of the vanguard and if there was an attempt to reduce the character
of the vanguard to the character of the uprising or subjectively
“upgrade” the uprising to the level of the vanguard.


With the available lessons of history, a revolutionary Left (even
Marxist) regime should be able to manage, and then advance, a
purely popular-democratic or national-democratic uprising. When the
masses themselves have stepped out, everything critically depends –
in a brief but decisive period of history – on the character and
clear-headedness of the vanguard.

Now, what is the connection between this fragmentary “theory of
revolution” and the current state of “insecurity” and ‘’threatening
state failure” in Nigeria? The connection is the Nigerian Left, or
rather, how the Nigerian Left, as a revolutionary opposition
movement, can intervene in the current national crisis: “insecurity”.

The immediate regret is, of course, that the Nigerian left is not armed
with a Peoples’ Manifesto of struggle which can serve as a guide to
ideological and political intervention. You may retort that the
non-existence of a Peoples’ Manifesto does not prevent a Leftist or a
Leftist formation from acting, or that there are in existence several
Leftist platforms from which a serious Leftist may choose.

My answer to the second objection is that there were many platforms
before and after the appearance of the Marx-Engels Manifesto of 1848
and many platforms in Russia before and after Lenin’s April 1917
Theses. One response to the first objection is that if the Nigerian Left
aspires to go beyond periodically rattling and entertaining the ruling
class and its state, and regularly supplying them with “assistants”,
“advisers” and sundry operators of their state machines, it must aim
at producing a Peoples Manifesto which, capable of being periodically
revised and updated, will be a consistent guide – not a magic formula
– in matters like the current “insecurity” and its politics.

Having said all this, what can the Nigerian Left do on the current
state of “insecurity” and “threatening state of failure’’: generalized
violent attacks on the masses by Boko Haram, “Islamic State”, armed
robbers, kidnappers, “bandits”, cattle herders, political thugs, armed
agents of the state, etc? The fundamental demand that should be
made on the Nigerian state is that everything should be done within
the Constitution to protect the masses – at no extra cost to them, but
rather, with a substantial reduction of their current existential


No entity (state or non-state) should circumvent or abridge the known
basic laws which the Nigerian state and the ruling class claim they
are currently using to rule the nation. We must, with clear heads,
insist on this because modern history has taught us that one clear
sign of rising fascism under capitalism is the increasing inability of
the state to govern by its own laws or by its own laws alone.

Beyond this central composite demand on the Nigerian state there
are complementary practical demands that can be made on the
authorities at different levels. We should note that the country is in a
situation in which the Left, in groups and as individuals, may ally
with or support clear “pro-people” and “progressive” initiatives from
outside the movement – the dangers of not having a guide or
“compass” notwithstanding. Beyond these steps is the advice to be
given directly and continuously to the masses.

This popular campaign should always include the insistence that at
the root of this “insecurity” and this “threatening state failure” is
capitalism, capitalist rule and this particular generation of Nigeria’s
capitalist ruling class.

Madunagu, mathematician and journalist, writes from Calabar,
Cross River State.

Previous article35-year-old man docked over alleged N413,000 fraud
Next articleMinister reiterates commitment to completion of SDGs projects in FCT

Leave a Reply