Friday, October 22, 2010

Make Way for a New Nigeria

Who can trust the ruling elements in Nigeria? They cannot organise the transfer of power among themselves. News of forward planning by strategic planners continues to come out in the media and the management of information continues to elude the tense coalition. Their children who were sent to ‘proper’ schools can no longer be trusted.

What is emerging is a new level of vigilance among Nigerians and their allies who can expose mischief making. New connections are being made on digital platforms from home and abroad as young Nigerians engage this new period with a determination to bring peace to their society. These connections on digital platforms are being reproduced by those who carry names that place the saving of Nigeria as a priority. It is this vigilance that will expose all Nigerians to the messages and inspiration from freedom fighters such as Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and Fela Kuti.

I went to see the musical FELA! on Broadway in New York City last December. It reflects that there has always been a cultural storm deep inside Nigeria, a reminder of the long traditions of cultural resistance in the villages, towns and hamlets of Nigeria. In this new century, the society is moving from resistance and fear to transformation. This is witnessed by the numerous forces who want to advance the vision of Tajudeen.

The forward planners are in a quandary. For a long time, the ruling elements in Nigeria were able to play the divide and rule tactics while enriching themselves. But now, they can neither organise the maintenance of power nor keep control of their children.


It is imperative for the youth to know about Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem so that, against the backdrop of the newly found fame of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, young Nigerians can make a distinction between the politics of liberation and the politics of oppression and distress. This is all the more important as imperial planners and their local allies fear liberation and emancipation.

Tajudeen was born in Funtua, Katsina State in Northern Nigeria in 1961. He came from a decent family who worked hard to send him to school and rise above mediocrity and insecurity. Tajudeen was a Rhodes Scholar who went to the highest institution of learning in Britain, Oxford University. He was a unifier who used his sharp mind and training to work for the unity, independence and liberation of Africa. He had a great sense of humour, which he used to win new forces to the causes of peace, sharing and cooperation. In short, Tajudeen lived the principles of Ubuntu. He was selfless and did not crave crude materialism. A forthright person who feared no power, Tajudeen was willing and able to speak and organise for the most oppressed sections of society. He was a follower of the Islamic faith but he castigated the fundamentalists who manipulated the poor, whether these fundamentalists called themselves Christians or Muslims.

When there was a sigh of relief in imperial centres at the passing of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and his vibrant African optimism, the importance of the home state of Tajudeen came into international prominence through the actions of the misguided and clearly manipulated young Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Tajudeen may be looking down from among the ranks of the ancestors and asking himself: Why are they going into my region to continue to divide my people. He continues to inspire us to popularise his writings on peace, transformation and democratic participation so that the youths can understand that there are real choices. Soon, Tajudeen’s postcards, edited by Ama Biney and Adebayo Olukoshi, will be available for the youths who will understand the essence of ’Speaking Truth to Power’. The title of the selected postcards is not by accident because there is a new ethic in international politics, the politics of Truth. This new politics of truth is spreading like wildfire, blowing away the politics of lies, deception and double-dealing.

As the youths eagerly await this new tract of ‘Speaking Truth to Power’, teachers all over the country should be getting ready to translate this book into as many languages as possible and to enliven an interest in having the messages read in as many places as possible. Imperial planners had been taken aback by the boldness of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem and his vision of the youths standing up for Africa. His writings, his messages, and his speeches had been reaching a small number of youths across Africa but he was not well known in his home country. The global Pan African movement will ensure that as an ancestor, Tajudeen will be better known than as a mortal.

In the corridors of foundations and think tanks, there is consternation. Many questions were being asked after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested in Detroit for the attempted destruction of an aircraft: How could the child of one of our allies and someone we trained be seduced by ideas where he would sacrifice himself? Where did we lose him? Yet they were asking the wrong questions and would only get wrong answers. Even in the midst of this tragic episode for Nigerians and US citizens, the planners of war manipulate this incident to increase insecurity and fear for the travelling public, while at the same time causing anxiety for all Nigerians.

The radicalisation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab sent shock waves through society because he was supposed to have been trained properly. His parents ensured that he learnt proper English, he was shipped out of Nigeria to a proper British boarding school in Togo, and from there dispatched to the United Kingdom. They were saying to themselves: ‘We ensured that this young man did not get exposed to radical elements such as Tajudeen, Fela, Eskor Toyo and the millions of patriotic Nigerians who had been working for peace and transformation.’ Imperial planners had been paying close attention to the work of Tajudeen and his friends who were campaigning for true democracy and development.

And yet, the enemies of peace had learnt well from Western intelligence forces. After all, Bin Laden was from one of the most well to do Saudi families when the US intelligence operatives recruited him to be a campaigner for radical and counter-revolutionary Islam that called for young people to blow themselves up as suicide bombers. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was just as cocooned as Bin Laden living in his multi million dollar flat in London.

Farouk was sheltered from the harsh realities that ordinary Nigerians face daily Yet, even in this privilege, Farouk could not escape the confusion and contradiction inherent in the goals of liberty and inequality and the vast gulf that divided imperialism from the peoples who want peace and justice. The clear lesson of this episode is for the rich in Nigeria to bring home their wealth and invest in the reconstruction of Nigerian schools and places of learning. This is what Tajudeen was doing in Funtua. And the best form of penance that the father of Abdulmutallab can do is to donate all of his wealth to building new educational institutions so that never again will children be brainwashed to the point where they lose hope so that they plan to commit suicide.

Farouk was not radicalised in Nigeria, and Nigerians must not suffer because of his actions. Nigerians are correct to oppose the criminalisation and demonisation of Nigeria consequent to the attempted bombing that has caused the US to place Nigeria on the terrorist watch list.

Tajudeen and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab shared some things in common. First, they were from Katsina state. Secondly, they were both followers of Islam and thirdly, they both studied in the United Kingdom. These similarities may hide the wide gulf between Tajudeen (who would have been called a commoner) and the wealth and privilege of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Young persons such as Farouk have lost hope, and it is the spirit of Tajudeen that we are invoking to remind these youths that there is a higher goal to live for than to commit suicide. Committing suicide and taking innocent lives is not part of the African revolutionary tradition. What is going on is indeed counter-revolutionary violence.


With every passing day, one is witnessing the collapse of the cultural and political world of the old ruling forces in Nigeria. From every region there is call for a new definition of independence and emancipation. Religious fundamentalism will die a slow death just as it did in the pre-independence era when the so called moral re-armament movement sought to divert Nigerians from the bold Pan African vision of Kwame Nkrumah, Zik and other founding mothers and fathers of independence. The re-definition of emancipation is not simply a Nigerian project, just as the question of the destruction of the Niger Delta is not simply a project for the peoples of this region. Boldness is required so that the debate on emancipation builds on all the positive and negative lessons, from Lumumba to Mandela, to Tajudeen. Last week we reminded our brothers and sisters that emancipation cannot be a male project. There must be a robust discussion of the efficacy of armed military struggles in a period of insecurity and divisions. What about revolutionary non-violence and defensive planning that will expose provocateurs? Vigilance among Pan Africanists, should be most sustained in support for the Nigerian people at this moment. The youth, especially, must be vigilant against manipulation, and should non-violently organise to sustain alternative sources of power, as well as resist any attempt by local politicians and foreign predators to repeat the repression, destabilisation, and plundering that the Nigerian people were subjected to under the military dictators.

The gradual transition to democracy since 1999 has reached a critical stage. It is so critical the transition is now on its deathbed. Will the transition survive? That is the question. As Bob Marley sang, ‘we are confident of the victory of good over evil.’ But this confidence does not mean that the forces of peace must rest, instead they must intensify their effort to ensure that the transition survives. And this question can only be answered by the active engagement of the people. The transition to peace and popular democracy cannot be decided by those who oppose democratic participation and popular expression. The political health of the country is also linked to the provision of services such as health care. A comatose society is not to be feared. What is to be feared is a healthy, vibrant society imbued with African optimism and the kind of cultural outpourings that can lift the spirit of the youth.


Nigerians of all classes, but especially patriots, must shun attempts by the political and economic bourgeois class to use them to incite ethnic and religious violence. They should tap into the inherent strength of their linguistic and religious diversity, the teeming and intelligent youthful population and organise from the grassroots to bring about the social, political and cultural transformation that the country yearns for.

In the spirit of Tajudeen, those of us who stand for peace and social justice in the pan African world and globally must stand by the women and children that are being exploited and massacred in Nigeria; we have an obligation to expose those that are fomenting crisis to justify militarism and exploitation. We must support our Nigerian brothers and sisters who are resisting leaders that masquerade themselves as Pan Africanists and yet call for the division of Nigeria along religious lines.

Such leaders have failed in their attempts to manipulate and trivialise Africa’s unity for their personal aggrandisement. We must now make them realise that they do not have any credible voice in the struggle for true democracy and transformation in Nigeria. We must use new modes of communication to join in solidarity with grassroots organisers who are resisting the subjugation of self-interested elements within and outside Nigeria.

The Nigerian ruling class must also be made to understand that regard for the humanity of the people of Nigeria is more important than the political career of any individual or political cabal. It is also becoming clearer that it is not only imperial centres that fear Nigeria and Nigerians. The utterances of Colonel Gaddafi that Nigeria should be divided into two exposes the misleaders across Africa who fear a strong and united Nigeria and a strong and united Africa.