Where are Nigeria’s pro-democracy activists?


By Uzodimma Nwala &​

Abia Onyike

There is certainly no doubt that the PRO-DEMOCRACY movement in Nigeria played a major role in the termination of military rule in 1999, through their engagement in various popular platforms and also through the active participation of their notable leaders in the realignment of forces leading up to the formation of political parties.

  1. The 1990s witnessed the re-awakening of popular democratic forces in Nigeria. The Nigerian left enjoyed a broad coalition of forces which brought together many veterans of the anti-colonial movement, Marxists, Socialists, human rights activists, labour leaders and their organizations, Youth Organizations, Market Women and other Mass Organizations.

It was from this historic alliances that several pro-democracy organizations were formed, namely: National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Democratic Alternative (DA), Uhuru Research Council (URC), Revolutionary Directorate (RD), etc. etc.

One would have expected the pro-democracy movement to have formed its own party or taken control of any of the registered political parties in the 1998/1999 period. But unfortunately, all the openings for democratic engagement which were offered  for the deepening of democratic governance in Nigeria were frittered away.

  1. Then the most dangerous step was taken in the build-up to the 2015 general elections when the most active segments of the pro-democracy movement went into an alliance with the most reactionary/fascist wing of the Nigerian ruling class, led by a retired Military dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari. It would appear that there was a very clear conspiracy to permanently mortgage the democratic movement in Nigeria as represented by the pro-democracy and labour activists by luring them and having them surrender and align with the anti-democratic forces.

They ignored the lessons of history and forgot that Buhari was the right hand man of Gen. Sani Abacha, the Military Head of State who seized power from the Ernest Shonekan Interim National Government.

  1. Today, the result of the misadventure by the pro-democracy chieftains is obvious. Consequently, the party which houses most of the pro-democracy leaders is the one that has ruined the Republic, with the result that the country is facing the worst form of insecurity in its history. NIGERIA’S economy lies prostrate, as the international economic regimes, namely IMF and World Bank dictate anti-peoples policies targeting complete removal of oil subsidies while the national currency, the Naira, has been devastatingly devalued.

Nigerians have been short-changed more terribly. Poverty and hunger walk  majestically on the streets of Nigeria. Where are the pro-democracy activists? Why are they missing in action?

Tragically, as these ugly events unfolded, the pro-democracy activists felt ignorant and unperturbed as their beloved regime opened Nigeria’s borders to irredentist foreign Fulani militants and Jihadists.

  1. It is not enough for the pro-democracy leaders to claim that they joined the APC because one of their leaders and NADECO veteran, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was one of the architects and promoters of the new alliance which produced the Buhari civilian regime.

All these developments point to one fact: which is that many of those who claimed to be pro-democracy activists were lured to join the reactionary alliance because of immediate material gains. Which means that Comrades are not immune from the politics of Ritu Ritu and Ratu Ratu (i.e., Politics of the Stomach).

  1. For those who joined the political bandwagon, one thing was very clear. They suffered from the poverty of correct political analysis. The question is: What was their disaffection? The Nigerian left should not allow itself to be drawn into the political culture of the herd instinct. The mere fact that some of the king-pins of the pro-democracy movement were the arrowheads of the alliance with Buhari (an alliance led by an Abacha protegee) was not a sufficient and logical reason to go into the alliance with a well-known autocratic maximum dictator.

For instance, if the pro-democracy movement had rallied round former President, Goodluck Jonathan, they would have  helped to return Nigeria to a more steady democratic course than the current anarchic situation which is set to consume everybody.

  1. What lesson does this reality pose for the immediate future of Nigeria’s democratic evolution? It teaches that it is better for the democratic forces to stand behind an honest political actor, even if he is a neophite but not one that has the history of alliance or mentorship by sordid reactionary forces whose identities we do not need a Seer to teach us. As democrats, we need to identify leaders who are ready to learn and rally round them to save Nigeria from the impending, indeed raging Holocaust.

Whether the resolution of the Nigerian political quagmire is a matter of TO  BE or NOT TO  BE, it requires honest democratic commitment to resolve, without turning the Nigerian society into a grave yard.


 Prof .Nwala and Onyike wrote from Enugu


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