Nigeria (was:Re: Uneven development within the boundaries of a country)

Lou Paulsen wwchi at
Tue Aug 1 11:17:06 MDT 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: Johannes Schneider <Johannes.Schneider at>

>- Nigeria North/South divide
>During British colonial rule the South of Nigeria was under direct British
>rule, whereas in the North the British ruled through the local Sultans. The
>south is predominatly Christian (with exception of parts of Yorubaland that
>are Muslim) wheras the North is Muslim. There are several hundred different
>people and languages in Nigeria. As a result of colonial rule school
>education was better in the South and generally the South maintained more
>ties to the outside world.
>This lead to a peculiar uneven development of independent Nigeria: Commerce
>is concentrated in the South, where as the military is dominated by the
>North. Given the many years of military rule the North influence in
>is strong. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of Nigerias exports. It
>only found in the South.

Nigeria is a country of extraordinary importance in the global class
struggle.  With about 116 million people, it is by far the most populous
country on the African continent.  Northern and southern Nigeria were
conglomerated together by the British colonialists precisely in order to
create disunity.  I have been trying to follow developments there more or
less closely over the last couple years.  Actually there are roughly four
centers of nationality:  the North, mostly Hausa/Fulani, heavily Muslim and
agricultural, and with the greatest population of the four;  the southwest,
mostly Yoruba, with the greatest concentration of education, trade, and
contacts with the imperialist world; the Igbo region in the southeast, the
center of the Biafra secession; and the oil-producing region in the Niger
Delta, which is mostly the home of smaller nationalities like the Ijaw and
the Ogoni.

There is a very high level of conflict now, which is expressed in regional
terms, and in ethnic terms, and in religious terms, and in conflict among
states, and in every other possible way.  Marxism has never been strong
there, probably because of the intensity of the nationalism.  Every
nationality and sector there has grievances against the others. The Yoruba
charge the north with having oppressed them under the rule of Abacha and the
other generals.  The North accuses the southwest of trying to sell them out
to imperialism.  The Igbo have not forgotten the Biafra war, and the Delta
nationalities are oppressed by the imperialist oil companies and (in their
view) by the whole rest of Nigeria which are trying to build national
prosperity by exploiting them and ruining their land.

In the last six weeks there have been six pipeline fires in the Delta
region.  These pipeline fires happen when people tap into the pipelines to
steal oil.  The question of who is doing it has not been adequately
answered.  At first it was charged that the villagers were doing it
themselves, but it seems that they must be criminal gangs with more advanced
technology.  The oil leaks out of the pipeline and makes big pools of crude
oil and saturates the ground for a kilometer in every direction.  Some of
the villagers then try to take oil from the pools for their own use.  Then
the oil catches fire and the whole village and hundreds of the people are
burned alive.

General Abacha died in 1998, after stealing (by the estimates of the current
government) about $3 billion US in cash and paper money for himself and his
family.  The operation to recover this money from the foreign bank accounts
is a big struggle.  In 1999 the current president, Olasegun Obasanjo, was
elected; he is a 'southern man' who had 'northern support'.  He is very much
oriented toward privatization, close relations with the U.S., doing whatever
the IMF wants, etc.  The labor movement was completely suppressed under
Abacha but has come out now and engaged in a lot of struggle.  Of course
most of the population are involved in agriculture, are desperately poor,
and are not touched by the labor struggles, or even resent them because they
believe the unions are privileged people who are trying to get more than
their share.

A big issue there now is the issue of Shar'ia (traditional Muslim) law.
Some of the northern Muslim-majority states are declaring their states to be
under Shar'ia.  At least one person has had his hand cut off for stealing
cattle.  The south is furious about this.  There is a thing called the Youth
Service Corps which involves young people working on public works projects
in different parts of Nigeria.  Now some southern states are saying they
won't send young people to Shar'ia states.

This is only a very brief, incomplete, horribly oversimplified, and very
unsystematic set of notes about this extraordinarily important country,
which desperately, DESPERATELY needs revolutionary Marxism as the only
possible road to unity and survival.

I strongly recommend that everyone here start by reading everything ever
written by the Nigerian (and Igbo) novelist and essayist Chinua Achebe.  His
novels cover the history of Nigeria, from traditional society through
colonialism and neo-colonialism to military rule.

Lou Paulsen

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