Friday, October 22, 2010

Demands from Jos, Nigeria and the World: Invest in Caring, Not Killing

The details of the massacre of more than 100 defenceless poor and exploited persons – mostly women and children – in Nigeria came on 8 March International Women’s Day. It was striking that this news came when society should be spending time honouring the work and contribution of women. International Women’s Day is one day when the world stands with the self-affirmation of women. In all parts of the world, women have been organising against their oppression and subordination, and this day of respect and honour was despoiled by the news of the callous and brutal killings. Yet these killings and violence in Nigeria were only one reminder of the killings, murder, rape, violation and massive oppression that are faced by women everyday. It is for this reason that one group of women used the occasion of the International Women’s Day to call for a global strike. Our sisters from the Red Thread Movement have been at the forefront of the call to end militarism and invest in caring and not killing. They joined with the international peace petition to all governments stating, 'Invest in caring not killing!'

We, the people of the world, demand that:

- The ‘war with no end’, and the arms trade and genocide it imposes, be brought to an end
- The over US$900 billion now spent on military budgets worldwide be invested instead in the care and welfare of all the people and our planet
- All caring work, now done mainly by women, be valued and paid for, and a pension paid to all those whose decades of work have never been recognised
- Caring, and therefore the survival and enrichment of every life and of the planet, becomes the aim of every society and every economy.

It is appropriate that this statement be our postcard for this week. We have to honour the memory of the innocent women and children who were killed in Jos, Nigeria, and the memory of the millions of poor women whose lives are devalued everyday. As our elder Eusi Kwayana has stated in his missive to the wider community on International Women’s Day, the male problem is based on insecurity among us males accustomed to seeing women through religion and ideology as 'made for us'.

Kwayana then went on to see how the ideas of the subordination of women appeared in strange places, especially among those who were supposed to be at the forefront of liberation.

Today, the challenge of how to confront the male problem in Africa has been compounded by fundamentalists of all stripes who seek to hide behind religion to promote their insecurity. It is this insecurity that has been on display in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, Algeria and in every part of the planet where males fear the emergence of the rights of all, especially grassroots women. News reports of the killings continue to use language that inflames ranting about ethnic and religious clashes in Nigeria. In the media, officials cower by, stating that the killings in Jos were revenge killings. These fundamentalists have forgotten the ethic of Gandhi that, 'An eye for an eye makes every one blind.'

From the images, it is clear that a certain blindness has overtaken the ruling classes of Nigeria so that they can continue looting and plundering the country. Revenge begets revenge, so that the justification of the killings as being in revenge for the January massacres will only continue this recursion of butchery if there is no break in the culture of impunity for the organisers of this violence. These killings represent a serious indictment of the political class in Nigeria. For the past 50 years, the Nigerian ruling elements who revel in the relationship with Europe have been making a mockery of independence. These elements have been the beneficiaries of the divisions of the working peoples and they facilitate and enable the fundamentalists from all religious hues. From their rituals of subordination to the imperial cultures, these elements have stoked the fires of war, oppression, division and hate while salting away billions in their bank accounts in Europe, Asia and the Americas. After the millions who perished in the Nigerian civil war of 1967–70, one section of the Nigerian military vowed never to cripple the country with all-out warfare.

Yet even without this all-out warfare, the daily war and economic terrorism against the poor has reached such proportions that the flames of resistance and change now burn anew across Nigeria. The killings and inflammation of fundamentalist passions are meant to put out the flame of liberation that is coming from below in all regions of Nigeria. These flames of liberation are awaiting the moment when the fire will burn so that the politicians will have to pull their weight. The people are calculating very carefully because they understand the need for non-violent resistance to ensure that the militarists and their external supporters do not plunge the country into war. How could a country with an intelligence and security service stand by while the plotters enact their massacres?

The Ogas have exhausted their potential to be able to contribute to the transformation of Nigeria and Africa. From their cocktails at the polo club, the self-righteous purveyors of imperial rituals seek recourse to the divide-and-rule tactics of their mentors to halt the freedom on Nigeria. These elements who send their children to boarding schools to be educated in the best Oxbridge accents are behind the manipulation of religion, regionalism and religion. They despise African thinking, African knowledge systems, African agency and more importantly African life.The deaths in Jos are just another statistic. This is why they laugh when they hear of African fractals and will meet in seminars on 'conflict prevention and conflict resolution'. It is humorous to hear of the luminaries who this week held a meeting in Jos. They have no interest in the investment in caring. They have invested in killings and divisions in the same way that they have salted away billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts.

Our brother Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem wrote in many of his postcards about the resilience and the tenacity of the grassroots women of Nigeria. Reflecting on the callous and inhuman conditions in which the exploited live in Nigeria, Tajudeen had commented that African women should not die in childbirth. This was in reference to the death of his sister who died in the facilities in Nigeria that are supposed to be hospitals. Millions die in these conditions because the rich do not have to worry. They die in the hospitals and medical facilities in Europe and America. We do mourn the passing of Maryam Babangida, but is it not ironic that a wife of a head of state who had championed the Better Life Programme (BLP) should join the ancestors from a medical facility in the United States? Probably now is the moment for the truth to come out about the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Dele Giwa.

It was the Babangida enterprise that gave Nigerians the Better Life Programme which ended up 'making millionaires out of the BLP officials and friends'. As one author observed:

'The better life for rural women became the better life for rich women. The Nigerian poor did not know what hit them; before the poor could say "Food at last", the food was taken away from them, they were left gaping and hungry as usual.'

The evidence of the role of ruling-class women has been well-documented by Ifi Amadiume in her insights in 'Daughters of the Goddess, Daughters of Imperialism: African Women Struggle for Culture, Power and Democracy'. Amadiume was drawing a line between those who invested in caring and those who invested in killing and manipulation. The Babangida and the polo club's friends and children have shown that caring can be turned into another instrument of oppression.

As the aiders and abettors of the crimes against the Nigerian peoples shed crocodile tears about the killings in Jos, one cannot forget that elements such as the Pope, the British ambassador and Hilary Clinton – who have condemned these killings – have not condemned the daily looting of the country. Imperialists from time to time shed crocodile tears about corruption and violence in Nigeria, but these statements only serve to hide their partnership with the Nigerian hyenas who have despoiled the richest society in Africa. In 2007, at the launch of the UN Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that 'Corruption undermines democracy and the rule of law.' He went on to say that corruption even kills. Yet the UN, dominated as it were in the Security Council by the states who benefit from the investment in killing, cannot give teeth to the efforts to return the stolen billions from Nigeria.

On International Women’s Day, solidarity with the exploited men and women is being reinforced with solidarity for the women of Nigeria, who are calling for basic survival needs – clean accessible water, food security, healthcare, housing, education, safety from rape and other violence, and protection for our planet.

Nigeria is the richest country in Africa with the linguistic and cultural diversity that can lay the basis for a transformed Africa. Nigerian women from the grassroots have been at the forefront of the traditions of resistance. As Ifi Amadiume reminded us, there are three generations of women freedom fighters in Nigeria: first, the traditional African resistance matriarchs who fought the anti-colonial struggles; then, the daughters of the goddess who fought the nationalist and liberation struggles for independence; and finally the daughters of imperialism who inherited the post-independence successor state and are partners in corruption. She continued by noting, 'in the opinion of this Daughter of the Goddess, even the National Council of Women’s Societies (the umbrella organization for Nigerian women) has lost sight of its traditional objective of mass mobilization of women, to become "a glorified reception committee for those in power."'

Women all over Africa have witnessed the manipulation of the official women’s organisation to serve those who oppress men and women. Today, the issue raised in this call for ‘the recognition of caring work and against violence’ is a profound statement on the central concepts of liberation in the 21st century. The challenges of breaking the militarism, sexism, homophobia and warfare across the planet are more urgent than ever. A few years ago, we saw another possibility of the grassroots energy of Nigerians when women went on strike against the oil despoilers in the Niger Delta. Today on International Women’s Day we mourn those who were massacred, but we believe that the grassroots women of Nigeria will move again and when they move, they will amaze not only Nigeria but the world.