Press Release 18th October, 2000
The first in such recent mayhem took place at Ilorin, Kwara State on Sunday 15th October 2000, when six members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) were reportedly killed during clashes with the police over what was alleged to be OPC’s attempt to install a Yoruba Oba (king) in the township.
And over 100 people have reportedly been killed since Sunday, 15th October and properties worth millions of naira destroyed as a result of clashes between OPC activists and elements belonging to Hausa nationality in some parts of Lagos metropolis.
To us in the DSM, the recent spate of ethnic rioting, just like those that took place in Sagamu, Kaduna, Ajegunle, Ife/Modakeke, etc. during the first year of the current "Fourth Republic", are a reflection of the failure and incapability of the Nigerian capitalist ruling elite to resolve the hydra-headed economic, social and political malaise affilicting the country, the transition to civil rule notwithstanding.
It is an undeniable fact that the Obasanjo government and the various state and local governments have proved incapable in the past one year to effect any noticeable change in the living and working conditions of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians. Hunger, mass poverty, destitution, homelessness and diseases are still the lots of the working masses. Rather than reducing the hardship being faced by the masses, the policies of privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services like education, health, housing, NEPA, NITEL, etc. and the brazen looting of the treasury at all levels of government is worsening the deplorable conditions of the masses. For instance, the existence of millions of unemployed youths in communities across the country has provided fertile recruitment ground for ethnic based organisations.
It is the sense of hopelessness and frustration engendered by these socio-economic paralysis, coupled with the fuelling of ethnic feelings by different sections of the capitalist ruling elites for their own selfish ends, that has aggravated ethnic conflicts throughout the country.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) appeals to the working masses (workers, students, traders, peasants, artisans, etc) of all ethnic and religious backgrounds not to allow themselves to be used to attack working people from other ethnic group or religious faith.
Rather than unleashing violence against ourselves, we should form a common front and struggle together to fight against the anti-poor policies of the various capitalist governments which has been impoverishing the working masses.
The DSM calls on the labour movement especially trade unions and the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to come forward with a programme to unite the working people across the length and breadth of the country as a matter of urgency. This is the only way to stem the growing and dangerous trend of inter-ethnic and inter religious conflicts and violence.
Above all, the labour movement and labour and youth activists must begin the process of building a genuine independent mass working people’s party with a socialist and an anti-capitalist programme as a step towards a workers’ and poor peasants’ government which alone is capable of successfully tackling the numerous economic and social problems facing the country, uplift the lives of the working people, give them hope and thereby undermine the roots of ethnic and religious conflicts.
While recognising the considerable reduction of the rate of crime attributed to the activities of OPC and Bakassi boys, the blunt truth remains that unless the satanic capitalist system that is pushing the vast majority of our youths to crime and violent crimes is changed for a humane socialist order, this achievement will be nothing but a pyrhic victory.
Even now, to prevent an abuse or misuse of the phenomenon of instant justice on suspected or apprehended criminals, the DSM calls on workers, youths and residents in each community to organise people’s security and self defence committees democratically elected and controlled by the community.
This approach will ensure that criminals are dealth with decisively while at the same time giving them the most posisble and practicable opportunity for fair hearing. This approach will also ensure that no individual or group of individuals will hide behind the cover of fighting crimes to unleach violence and terrorism on political opponents whether on intra, inter ethnic basis, religious or ideological basis.
The DSM also calls for:
- A massive public works programme to build roads, houses, railways, schools and hospitals and to generate employment.
- Abolition of SAP.
- An end to anti-poor capitalist/imperialist policies of privatisation and commercialisation, retrenchment of workers etc.
- Public ownership of the country’s vast resources and wealth under the democratic management and control of the working people.
- A genuine multi-party democracy with the right of every individual and group to organise political parties without registration by the government.
- The right to stand for elections as independent candidates.
- Convocation of a democratically-elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC) comprising elected representatives of social groups such as workers, peasant farmers, traders, rank-and-file of the armed forces and police, professionals and ethnic nationalities according to their numerical strength to deliberate and decide on the way forward for the country and draw up a new constitution.