African Studies, Essays

The STATE In A Capitalist Nigeria

“In a society riddled with colonial contradictions, the resolving of one contradiction creates new ones becausecolonial contradiction is better resolved more by elimination than by substitution.” Late Prof. Mike Onwuejeogwu

If there is one country in the world where the thesis of Karl Marx on the STATE has been proved and concretely established in very crude, crooked and wicked ways, it is the Nigerian STATE. I am not writing about miniature Delta, Plateau, Abia, Osun, or Kano states, no. I am specifically talking about Nigeria as a holistic hubris of a STATE. In fact, in Africa generally Karl Marx thesis – combined with that of Vladimir Lenin – on the STATE has become an established scientific fact.

Liberal and pluralistic theories overwhelmingly see the STATE as a “mediator,” mediating between divergent interest groups in a society. The purpose of which was to make sure that antagonistic interest groups, in their daily pursuits for primitve accumulations, do not hurt one another, heat up the body polity, and destabilise the other social institutions thereby setting the society on fire. The STATE therefore mediate between individuals, groups and corporate organizations in the interest of the generality of a people.

The STATE helps to check greed, control avarice, and excessive individualism. It also tries to curb crime and criminal tendencies in individuals and corporate organizations. Through the agencies of government, it enforces laws and conventions for the smooth running of society. These agencies are: the police, Customs and Immigration Services, Secret Services, the judiciary and the army. In the United kingdom and most European countries, this seemed to be what obtains. But to Karl Marx, the liberal theory is a functional mask, a façade, a calming and a softening counter revolutionary antithesis and a practical intellectual joke.

Concretely analysed, that theory is liable to deceive people and has in fact, deceived a lot of people. Its domain assumptions are pure caricatures of existing reality. The two paradigm views of Karl Marx on the STATE however, are surmised as follows: first, that the STATE ” is an instrument of domination by exploiting classes that are defined by their positions within the process of social production”. Second, that the STATE is “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie; and as the form in which the individuals of a ruling class asserts their common interests.”

In every material particular, Nigeria is a dubious good example of Marx and Lenin objective intellectual position. In my article “jos-riot-and-the-dead-mans-footsteps,” I’d listed most of those historical affirmations that proved this thesis true. The criminal invasion of the Niger-Delta by the Nigerian STATE has further confirmed and affirmed this theoretical position. The invasion of that region is not the recorded first, neither is it going to be the last. The egalitarian Tiv land was invaded by the Tafawa Belawa’s government in the early 60’s; the Western region was virtually intimidated into submission by the same regime after the election of October 1965 and was about to be militarily invaded and subdued before Major Nzeogwu and co thwarted that plan; the Eastern region was besieged from 1967 to 1970 by genocidal Federal forces; Zaki Biam in Benue state and Odi, in Rivers State were not spared under OBJ and today, the Niger-Delta is under another military siege authorised by a democratically elected government.

Siege craft has therefore become part of the integrated policies of the Nigerian STATE. Any Nigerian in doubt about the criminality of the Nigerian STATE and its activities in the Niger-Delta should try and avail himself with the book: Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights And Oil {2003} authored by Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas. These authors are from that region. The book is a sociological exposé: a complete compendium of indictment of both the Nigerian STATE and Shell Oil Company. Like THE MAN DIED, by Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nigerian youths should get a copy of this book and read. This book and Wole’s, would broaden their horizon and understanding of the meaning of injustice, oppression, wickedness, evil and STATE violence. I have never stopped reading and re-reading THE MAN DIED. Even though I have the Holy Bible, Wole’s is still like a social Bible to me. That is that!

The Nigerian STATE helps to spread crises. It does not help to curtail them. Most, if not all the religious riots and settler/indigene disturbances have been aided and escalated by the STATE. The total number of people killed in all these crises since independence due to the partial action and inaction of the STATE cannot be quantified. If a STATE cannot guarantee its citizens the basic necessities of life; cannot guarantee security to all its citizens no matter where they reside; cannot guarantee equity, social justice and free movement; cannot even conduct a free and fair election and is open to blatant preferential treatments to a particular region of the country since the 1914 amalgamation, then that STATE is a failing STATE.

Nigeria is inhibited in growth and development because of the contradictions inherent in its body political economy. And for these contradictions to be considerably reduced or vanquished, a unique social action need to be taking before these contradictions consume all of us – both the oppressed and the oppressors. Poverty is bad but wealth too is equally bad. The bottom line in third world economies ought to have been to live a life of moderation bearing defining heuristic social circumstances.

Too much wealth in the hands of a few and misery and indigence in the hands of the many breeds discontent. That is why wealth is bad. You cannot live in opulence surrounded by very poor and beggarly people and expect to live and sleep in peace. One eye must be kept open. Neither would peace reign in your heart. Your wealth is a practical contradiction. Your wealth transforms into nothing but your own burden, your own grave yard and your own anachronism. You have therefore used your wealth to invite death and a controlled kind of freedom: you are free but still in bondage. Bondage you created out of your own greed. Social scientists have since established that you cannot live in opulence in the midst of mass hunger, misery and indigence and expect to have peace and freedom. It is a dangerous contradiction that is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. It should be uprooted. Wealth in few hands in most third world countries is pure theft. It is an organised plunder with established patterns that have had and is still having devastating societal consequences. This has been going on in Nigeria since 1960.

This is why in most European democracies, the STATE in order to avoid social catharsis and pockets of bloody revolts, moderates judiciously between wealth and poverty. It stabilizes, using different techniques, to avoid a heat up of the whole system. Collective bargaining is doing well in the UK. It has stymied the critical mind set of British labour. The moderating role of the STATE effectively revolves around the Police and the judiciary. The two agencies, established by the bourgeoisie in its own interest, are so independent, efficient, and class protective that any attempts to hijack them for any other interest is futile.

But, that is not to say that the STATE in European countries is impartial. No, It only pretends to be. It is partial to the point that it favours the ruling class in a smoothening and soothing manner. However, that function, is often overlooked by a vast majority of the exploited working class and citizens as far as they have affordable houses and homes called council flats {social housing}; they can afford to buy and eat what they want; they can afford to go to schools and attend well equipped hospitals at little or no cost. Inflation is closely monitored. Employment is reasonably guaranteed. Ownership of any type of car is not a privilege but a right. Neither is it a luxury. Most basic needs of life are there for the taking. It is the ability of leaders to provide most of these that social scientists had to distinguish between “qualitative” transformation and “quantitative” growth.

Somebody could be growing without necessarily developing. The people of Agbor call such a person an “Onukwu” or an “Obolo”, while the Igbos call such a person an “Onukwu”, the Yorubas use the term Ode. That is the state of Nigeria. The country is just growing but not developing. Tai Solarin, of blessed memory, once described this contraption, which looks like a molue thus “… a huge elephant with the head of a salamander.” The country is just growing like an “Obolo”, an “Onukwu” and an “Ode”. The point remains that because its birth through the 1914 amalgamation was literally, genetically faulty, the country came and was borne big to serve British markets and International capital. It however came out with an abnormal small ‘head.’

It is the only country in the world that has abundant crude oil but is importing petrol from abroad. Its refineries have packed up. The agencies of the STATE like the police and the army are used to brutalised the people, to rig elections, and to impose unpopular governments. The Nigerian STATE does not serve the people, it is manipulated by a few to serve class interest and that class is the ruling class. They members are found in the South West, South East, Middle belt, Niger-Delta and the far North. What binds them together is the competitive looting of the national treasury. They quarrel {only} on the modus of sharing and, on who to give or hand over power to, as a trustee and a manipulable stooge. They could not even agree to hand over power to their one time member, Chief MKO Abiola, whom they saw to have committed “class suicide” for having the audacity to leave them to contest under the umbrella of a Progressive Party {SDP}. They could not stomach the impunity let alone trust in him to protect their interest. Thus he was not allowed to smell Aso Rock, the seat of STATE power.

The members of this class use the STATE to manipulate religion; to engrave and promote regional thinking in the minds of the people; to play one ethnic card against the other; to manipulate census figures and to enforce regional discrepancies. Through their ownership and control of the media, they project and protect a particular class interest and promote the ‘beautiful’ face of our own unique brand of capitalism. They also use their control of the Media to set the agenda for public discourse. Every aspect of an average Nigerian is controlled by this very mean social class. Like America, as seen nakedly through by C. Wright Mills, Nigeria is dominated by “powerful elite of unprecedented power and unaccountability”.

Virtually all our leaders are Niger-Delta Crude Oil merchants. This they transact through STATE approved channels or through illegal bunkering. Our groundnut pyramids have disappeared, cocoa farmers are no where to be found and palm oil, palm kernels and rubber cultivation have gone into oblivion. Wheat and cotton, found mostly in the North, have since moved to planet Mars. Every member of the ruling cabal has one or two oil blocs in the Niger-Delta. Just a little lift of it, you are a millionaire in different currencies. That is why every govt policy is tailored towards the Niger-Delta, a region whose veins have been opened for easy appropriation and accumulation of promiscuous wealth. That is why there are no more cash crops cultivated for export. The Nigerian STATE has not deemed it fit to set up a separate Ministry for Cocoa, Cotton, groundnut, Wheat and palm oil cultivation, but it has moved with the speed of lightening to set up one for the Niger Delta! Where are our groundnut pyramids? Where are the Cocoa and Palm oil plantations? Where are they and what efforts are being made to put life into this moribund sector? What is the work of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, what are the govt policies on cash crops? You see why Nigeria is an Ode, an Onukwu and an Obolo?

It is estimated that 70% of Nigerians live in the rural area while the rest live in the city. The occupation of the most rural dwellers in Nigeria is farming. They are not mechanised farmers but peasants. They owe their allegiance to their farmland. They cultivate mostly to feed themselves and their household while surpluses, due to lack of storage facilities, are sold in village markets. The peasantry is a social class on its own. Its members are so poor that they are never in a position to question government agricultural policies. They are scattered like potatoes in a sack. This is why when government announces policies on import of fertilizers, the peasantry is neither consulted nor taken into confidence.

When these imports arrive which are meant for these peasants, they are hijacked by members of the ruling class, distributed and shared among themselves and their concubines, then sold at highly exorbitant prices and out of reach of the village peasants – the real farmers that needed them. The ruling class in Nigeria in its pursuit for filthy wealth are so ruthless that even poor rural farmers are not spared. Most peasants hear about fertilizer but have never seen one. When some of them complained about the seizure of their farm lands for the execution of bourgeois projects, they were massacred. The massacre of Bakolori peasant farmers in Sokoto state in 1980 was another typical example of legitimised STATE mendacious slaughter committed under the directive and the watchful eyes of then President Shehu Shagari. STATE spin was effectively used to cover that atrocity. Today, nobody, not even the Sokoto state government remembers anything about that massacre. Those killed were not human beings, no, they were human chickens – a class of low class-ness!

The Nigerian STATE has its best brains outside the shores of the country. They are in Europe and America making waves in their various field of endeavours: performing miraculous and critical operations in hospitals, doing well in engineering and Computer sciences and yet their country is backward in all scientific facets. This shows there is a lot that is intrinsically wrong with that contraption.

A STATE in which a region has produced the leadership of the country for more than 30 years and that same region is, comparatively, suffering from backwardness, perverse poverty, misery and hopelessness, shows that there is something amiss with the political economy of the whole ‘mugu-ish’ social arrangement called Nigeria. We cannot continue to develop along this bourgeois carefully chosen path.

Nigeria will qualitatively move forward but not until the regions that participated and perpetuated the massacre of a particular region from July 1966 to 1970 have gotten their deserved comeuppance. That genocide is history that cannot be wipe out just like that. Every dog has his day. Most Nigerians objective meaning and interpretation of “anything Nigerian”, no matter how learned and well read they may pose, revolves around amalgamation, region, religion, and ethnicity. One needs to go closer to most of them and interact with them to have a fundamental grasp and feel of these ‘positive’ character trait. When you read their right ups, you have to go beyond their objective and good write ups, to unmask their real self. These write ups are façades.

Most of us have grown and developed to the level that we can deconstruct and unmask any façade. The Nigerian STATE helps to promote, sustain and maintain this façade, among others. What the STATE says through its media is not what it does. The country is a social taboo forcibly created in the interest of International capital, by a marauding, rampaging, ravaging, chameleonic colonialist that is well versed in intrigues and cunning. Nigeria is inhabited by about 500 coerced ethnic nationalities held together by a slippery cello tape, each ethnic stock with a seemingly hardened, entrenched, pigeon holed, negative stereotype coupled with deep seated hatred against one another and hypocritically masquerading as if all is well. The Nigerian STATE, as presently constituted, is not fit for any purpose. It should be progressively dismantled. The oppressed led by an uncompromising labour, should strive to seize that STATE, grab it, and smash it. I rest my case!


{1} “Becoming A Vice -Chancellor In A Nigerian University”, article by the late Prof. Mike Onwuejeogwu published in Nigeria’s Guardian of circa September 1985.

{2} The STATE In A Capitalist Society {2009} authored by Ralph Miliband, Merlin press publishers ltd.

{3} The Power Elite {1999} New edition, authored by C. Wrght Mills, OUP, USA.

{4} The Sociological Imagination {1999} New edition by C. Wright Mills, OUP, USA

{5} STATE And REVOLUTION {2009}, new edition authored by Vladimir Lenin, Penguin Classics.

{6} Sociology, Themes and Perspectives {2004}, Haralambos et al, 6th Revised Edition, Collins Educational publishers.

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