WHEN Russia went to war in Ukraine, some Pan-Africanists and socialists celebrated Putin as the opposition leader to Western imperialism. For this set of activists, imperialism is a synonym for Western countries. The fact that the Western world colonised Africa made that their worldview. Yet, all of the world powers are participating in the neo-colonisation of Africa. Imperialism, a behemoth that thrives on the exploitation of the resources of underdeveloped nations, is not a monolith. Just like capitalism, it bears within itself the seeds of its dissolution, manifested as internal contradictions, discord, and rivalry.
This standoff should be our wake-up call to recognise the inherent vulnerabilities of the imperialist machinery. Our slogan should be “Neither Russia nor France” and “Neither US nor China”. This is not the time to choose sides. It’s time to take advantage of the crack within the forces of imperialism to rise as African people. The way to rise through the crack is through genuine democratic movements, rooted in the aspirations of our people and devoid of external ruling-class sponsorship. True progress cannot be achieved through authoritarian means or by aligning ourselves with any “progressive” faction of the imperialist order. Instead, our path forward lies in the power of the people – by channelling their voices through deeply democratic decisions, protests, networks, and organisations.
Protests, free from external manipulation and guided by the principles of equality and justice, possess the potential to galvanise a cohesive force of anti-capitalist and Pan-African consciousness. The protest of the NLC/TUC last week broke down the shut gates of Nigeria’s National Assembly Complex, even when the labour leaders themselves have continued to demonstrate an aversion to action until they are pushed. This symbolises what can be achieved when the power of the people is truly exercised.
There are many ways to raise anti-capitalist or Pan-African consciousness, but supporting one side of this imperialist and capitalist war is surely not one of them. This is a consciousness that transcends linguistic and geographic boundaries and can only be cultivated by citizens who question the motivations of governments and ruling classes and express a disdain that is not directed toward the people of other nations but toward their authoritarian leaders.
This consciousness cannot be achieved with a war. War does not improve anybody’s consciousness. War is a catalyst for chaos. War is fear – where all reasoning is lost. War is a situation where necessity is used to whitewash the greatest atrocities on fellow humans. It’s easy to support the war from afar off. I know many West Africans who supported Putin’s war in Ukraine but are now afraid of Putin as much as they are of the West, now that Putin and Wagner are about to bring the war into their own homes.
Both the genuine supporters of the coup in Niger and the genuine opposition to the coup within the working class share a common desire – the inherent desire for authentic representation and self-determination. There are many people in Francophone Africa who also think Russia is as bad as the French and the Americans. There are many citizens from that part of the world opposed to both sides of the war. Those who try to speak for everybody are versions of the authoritarians in military uniforms or civilian suits.
So, this is not a Niger issue. This is not a Francophone Africa issue. This is even not an African issue. It’s an issue of international interest. This is an issue that should unite citizens of the world in the pursuit of freedom from the shackles of the few rulers of the world. This is not about ECOWAS, West Africa, or Tinubu who is chairing ECOWAS. This is a war game between a few members of the ruling class of each of these countries, and we must oppose it.
There was no time I or my ancestors consented to bring Britain, France, Wagner, America, or Russia into this land. Wagner forces are here on whose invitation? On whose invitation do they stand on our soil? The distinction between a democratic invitation by the people and one orchestrated by authoritarians must be made. This is why genuine representation and transparent decision-making is the only solution to this standoff in Niger, but no one is talking about that because it will mean shattering the illusion of control of the power-hungry elites.
So, I’ll choose to direct my energy against those elites – oppressors on both sides. They are both committing war atrocities in Ukraine presently. I don’t want either of those war-mongers in my country and I, as a citizen of Nigeria, deserve a say in whether my country goes to war or not. Personally, I am not capitulating to the divisive rhetoric that seeks to lure activists into picking sides. I’ll rather pick sides and solidarize with all oppressed peoples of the world, no matter their country. The weight of history is on us – the responsibility is on us to shape our own destiny. This world belongs to us all and our land should never be a pawn in someone else’s power game.
For a country that has refused to subsidise education, health or energy needs like fuel and electricity, all of these war games are just meal tickets for military generals and arms contractors. The military is corrupt everywhere and that is why I am passionately anti-military. The leader of the coup in Niger, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, was the presidential guard commander to the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. He has been the chief of the Nigerien presidential guard since 2011. The very forces that propped up a ruinous administration have the audacity to assert their distinction from the very system they upheld, and then call themselves revolutionaries.
It’s nothing but a continuation of the old order. Capitalist democracy has, and will always be military authoritarianism with four- or five-years cycles. That’s why protesters get shot and dissenters get arrested by “democratic” presidents every now and then. Genuine democracy cannot coexist with institutions that derive their power from the suppression of dissenting voices – institutions that “obey the last order.” In Nigeria’s “democracy”, the same military in Nigeria beat young boys on the streets for showing solidarity with them by wearing military camouflage, and the same military was used for battering and killing people at Lekki.
This does not mean that we’ll throw democracy out and usher in the military fully. But democracy is not something that can be or needs to be imported by force to Niger. We must not tolerate and give tactical support to military authoritarians in Niger because if the military was so popular in Niger, there won’t be a need for a coup. It will be a mass resistance, protest, or revolution by the people. All that the military will have to do is step aside and not shoot at democratic protesters.
So, the military is not the solution here. Neither are they the will of the people. Military regimes are never a solution. War is never a solution too. Imperialism is never a solution. Putin oppresses his people. For the last time, Putin is not my Comrade. The Russian Federation is not a socialist state. China is not a communist state. And yes, I am a socialist.
This celebration of Putin, Eastern Imperialism, military authoritarianism, and war comes from the dangerous authoritarian philosophy that some dissenters can be sacrificed for the greater good. This is an antithesis of the humanist and inclusive philosophy of leaving no one behind, but this philosophy is not for lazy thinkers.
Rather than selling Niger’s Uranium to either of the two imperialist elephants to make nuclear weapons to kill people in further war, why can’t the core of that Uranium serve as a potent source of electricity, not only liberating Niger from dependence on neighbouring countries like Nigeria but also laying the foundation for a self-sufficient energy future, in the journey towards cleaner energy? A tool of destruction becomes a catalyst for progress! But that only happens when the free expression of the democratic will of the people is allowed. That free expression of the people is the only guarantee for peace and democracy in Niger, not sanctions. Sanctions will only impoverish the innocent masses of Niger and feed a long-protracted war/insurgency.
Comrade Ibukun writes from Abuja, Nigeria and he can be contacted on 09167636201