Youth protests against police violence in Nigeria, the #EndSARS movement, gained international attention with solidarity protests around the world. To understand those protests and the context of the political, economic and social environment in Nigeria, I speak with Comrade Abiodun Aremu, the general secretary of the Joint Action Front and the co-coordinator of the Amil Cabral Ideological School Movement. Aremu speaks about the failure of the government to fulfill the 1999 Constitutional obligations, the extent and role of police and military repression, especially of the youth, and the ties between the United States and Nigeria.
Comrade Abiodun Aremu is the general secretary of the Joint Action Force (JAF), a pro-labour platform, and the co-coordinator of the Amilcar Cabral Ideological Movement (ACIS) Movement, a pan-Africanist, socialist and revolutionary movement. The JAF is a long time partner of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
Transcript: (not fully edited)
Margaret Flowers: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret flowers. And now I turn to my guest, comrade Abiodun Aremu, who is the secretary of the Joint Action Front, a pro-labor platform, and co-coordinator of the Amilcar Cabral Ideological School Movement, a pan-africanist, socialist and revolutionary movement. And the Joint Action Front is a longtime partner in the Nigerian Labour Congress. Thank you for taking time to join me today.
Abiodun Aremu: It is a pleasure. I’m joining you from Lagos, Nigeria.
MF: To begin with, can you tell our listeners about these organizations that you’re involved with?
AA: Yeah, the Joint Action Front is the product of the long-standing relationship between labor, the radical student movement and also the ideological civil society organizations. We used to have in the 40s 50s up to the 90s what we know as the labor and the oppressed movement in the society, not necessarily then as civil society because this whole things about CSO became a future of Nigerian struggle with the ascendancy of the neoliberal order when you have human rights organizations. So, when we talk about pro-labor, we talk about organizations with ideological commitment to the agenda of the working class. So it’s not just every civil society. Is civil society that have commitment to struggle on the terms of Labor ideological positions. So in the year 2005, following a series of resistance struggle particularly against the hike in fuel prices, the relationship between labor and the CSO transformed into a partnership of having the centers of labor, organized labor, and that we talk then about the Nigerian Labor Congress the Trade union Congress as an arm of the partner. Then we talk of all the other groups, some socialist, some not socialist and some human rights, classified as pro-labor organization and that which we have groups like Democratic Socialist Movement, Campaign for Workers Alternative, the Amilcar Cabral Ideological School Movement, Movement for Socialist Alternative, Center for Popular Education and several of those groups that are formed into the pro-labor Joint Action Front since 2005 and which labor we have struggled together on the basis of resistant particularly against hikes in fuel prices and against neoliberal policies. At the level of the Amilcar Cabral Ideological School, it started as an ideological movement to address the challenges of non-ideological kidders in the struggle. It is to position the struggle on the basis of class and on the basis of anti-imperialism. So I am the co-coordinator of that movement for the Pan-Africanist movement, a socialist movement and the revolutionary movement with the goal of the social transformations of society.
MF: Wonderful. And of course that political education is fundamental towards building a revolutionary movement. Let’s talk about the current protests that are going on in Nigeria starting on October 8th after the police murder of a young man. There was a video that circulated widely has some parallels to what we are experiencing in the United States with our current Uprising that began after the murder of George Floyd, but also some other very high-profile murders of black and brown men and women in the United States. Can you talk about why at this moment there’s such a large Uprising in Nigeria yeah, remote causes to the operation because the issue of police brutality in Nigeria particularly against the young and ideas and students dated as far back as 1971 when the first student activist was killed at University of ibadan, that’s fully adequate you but a much more wider dimension of The police repressions of student protests of their brutality of nine huge con sided with the impositions of word Bank policies in Nigeria in 1978. When the demolition of a passenger is Jim decided to withdraw to Sean you could do to trying to introduce universities and withdrawal of the subsidized feeding system and that led to that nature. No, white popular protests in which several management were killed on the street. In fact, that’s what Max what can call the ascendancy of a police brutality but also against the background that they are deep-seated economic crisis in the country particularly since the 80s with the imposition of IMF policies and structural adjustment policies that put server they dress up. Of built at that today. We have a 40 million Nigerians that art of job and this is coupled with the fact that the new liberal policy provided opportunity for government to infiltrate the student movement criminalized student movement and promote. It campus code values and brigandage. And by the time you have the political transitions coming up, Up some of the youth students and non-students became a sinner if recruitment for lateral violence or statistic in fighting to secure the property rights. We do the property rights are hoarders became the other four within a drainage have been adding associated with because it can post this now becomes environment that were no longer conducive for academic learning. So I’m with the deepness. The crisis at the political level because of religion or against and others you are a proponent of Youth that are always available to recruited as Machinery to foment trouble and violence and couple with in fact that the young ones also have to fend for themselves in an economy where there are no social welfare provision for the majority of the atrocities. And so the police in particular took advantage of the deeply economy. Crisis to harass and brutalized several young ones who could not on the field value explained their sort of existence to divulge a skilled at the police you so the specialty robbery Squad and become suddenly curious that belong The Young Ones everyone at the convicting you see of their assessment of distortions and even the barefaced Robby mook. Like you can use to survive on whatever is Possible only country without a national records in terms of evil data as to not speak of national identity is non-existent in Nigeria yet for the past 40 years. There be a project or national identity. So young ones that has no job for that perfect for themselves want them to explain their our souls of income. The identity because identity becomes relevant Nigeria it were dying school or any working places, except you are clapping identity for yourself. So when you cannot provide an identity within the context of which authority become victims of police arrest me arrest and brutality that are taking place. So what happened on October 8 was just part of the smooth cream over that happening and butter. The National Abortion also less than the two weeks. After that. We are the struggle to protect the I connect flip prices and the fact that the Labour leadership decided to capitulation. If it’s of dust for group also become a point of reference in what happened about the spontaneous crisis of October to show it’s like the energy leadership. You see leadership. Particularly in labor for long provide leadership in terms of us from who in Nigeria. So what was clear that without an organized leadership what happened from to 80/20 was expected in Nigeria that are going to be spontaneous and course and you thoroughly demonstrated their strength and that commitment to recover the country in terms of that protest. Yes. Yeah, and in fact The Joint action front had Out for you, we’re talking about this actions on September 16th because of the increase in the prices of fuel and energy. So that kind of what I’m hearing is that kind of fed into people who are already mobilizing and upset about that and then this police violence, you know was another level but the fact that the people in Nigeria have been fighting for years against this particular branch of the police force called SARS ssars the special anti robbery Squad which was And in 1992, can you talk about that squat in particular and why that’s being targeted and I know the government has tried on face value to say they’re doing some things but are they really taking any action on this police? Brutality? Yeah, you see the issue we have is much more deeper. You see that in the what he does have occurring in October is part of the river currents of police brutality against night. our citizens concise separate examples XI of out in the tutorials this patient probably Squad as inflicted maximum damage violence death on several engines some on predicted charges that are non-existent because why do you have a special appearance Court as a matter of fact, there is no No evidence, or there is no record in recent time or people are being tried for crimes committed and the certain particular be soon the plurals that innocent people. I must have become victims of their recklessness and totality. It’s almost 20 years now, then you can talk about successfully prosecuted and robbery case. that supposed to have done because what we abide in Nigeria experience is that those who are charged for Aubree’s at right and when tried and sentence the subject later branding or by firing squad, so and that it formed in the late eighties and early nineties campaign to put a firing squad at the matter of the past to reader of Border and life sentence, but the last 2025 years. There is no evidence of any successfully prosecuted Taste of Hammurabi. If I were to apart is more of a tragedy here killing that have been committed day in day out and Yeah out and we should have to order a corrupted you see the policing in the country. The specialty rubber cord is so Also be a unit of polished but issue of the brutality by the police for Quality you see on the edge of every police pressure from the ID because for all the protests many of us have been involved almost all those proteins are always surprised when it is civil cleared that you don’t need any permissions to legitimately potential the act of brutality itself. Beyond what appoint the particular of the arrangement and killing in the October goes beyond raised almost a daily occurrence. And that is why I said beginning from 1978. The young Nigerian have been victims of police harassment and police brutality. So true so is almost at the point similar that is why Syria at the youth because a country where Where that is not responsible in providing jobs and providing and neighbor environment for the young to exist. It seemed also part of the challenges in Nigeria is not the needs to have gluten-free touch higher education. So the absence of which many of the students or prospective students either out of schools so many Nigerians at the school, so and you’d become the direct Target. You see by the pulley system because it is believed that once you are not in school. Once you are not in job, you must be doing something that they classify some lawful and that become pieces frustration. So that is the order that you are having in the country showed you that become that direct beating much especially with a huge that have find their way out of the country to try to survive and want to come back to the country, you know, right from the airport they become targets. Personal targeted by the police. It’s not bad accident that you have the kind of response that you have. You see, we have a different vehicle killing but server as traditional model that have been committed you have lost several cases of people who are even Lucent build a change for criminals from The Institute. You have those incidences and good in the past that civil liberties organization. Committee for the first of all were right try to document some of these things in the annual report. There are uncountable of those assets. So it’s not bad accident that you had that kind of reactions Uprising that the youth came up with for those two to three weeks because it was clear that they are become that direct victims and they have to be direct system. So that is why it was like an ancestral you see Boyd. Goodbye. Answer because the answer is don’t say unit. You see our the concert task force another right? You’re curious woman. You see a criminal gangs. You see that I also set up to our eyes. So we did the policy unit and it does it without God God. God knows police brutality naam gaadi. Yahoodi understand that Patrol or military and police that I’ve also become the other in the country for close to two decades now. Now so they are combined in the arrangement and the violence being method on the citizens. Yeah in some ways does it does it feel similar? I mean Nigeria was under military rule for several decades which ended in 1999 and there is very severe repression. Then people didn’t have a right to protest during that time. Are there similarities between what’s happening now and what was happening in that period Nothing significantly different. What is different is that because you are operating within a civilian regime. It is been assumed that there’s some stability not really possibility or the student movement. You see every major protest of the student movement who are oppressed at activities. I was a student in early 1986 when protecting within the campus in American universities some of their students were killed and that informed the Nationwide struggled and I will call the angle must go and go then what the vice Chancellor of the multiple universities and for that protects which was natural because we all have in solidarity under the leadership of a platform then now it’s not social media has been announced or the campus. Throughout the country went to that’s exactly strobe and the police repress that as a matter of fact, I’d really prefer Congress actually declared young for negatives is also a CD of solidarity the literature also arrested on the account of dance with active support to and that informed why student you know needing was bad since then a maple tree. It’s in all campuses and if you look through all through the struggle For that Treasure of future problems the police the military you see what always out at every protest to replace it. So that has been the other any dissent. You see against the unpopular policies of the government. I will be Talent all September system. You see world to deliver support data transfer and also arrested because it’ll become the order of the police that protest We declared an illegality that would apply to demonstrate even when did not stick for that way to refresh your cannot be Quantified in terms of whether we have more options. We literally that during the Civil as a matter of fact, there are much most professions you see in the context of the civilian area because there was a protest in Twitter where the almost about system protects our national protest at level of liberal and conservative coalition. Between two year 2000 and 2003 not to talk about work to 2000 and 2005 and at one of the projects. I think that wasn’t in June that lasted seven days right in front of clothes in the dryer liberal Congress people were killed. In fact, one of the cops. This was brought at the premise of 1994 Congress because the police accurately priced so it’s like it looks of it. Policing is boundless. That is what it has been shown that is why the action as you add that National psychology in terms of the right quantity that is not of this thing but more beyond that is that people could not linked you see the act of the police they’re transferring aggression or violence only people to the robot and the depth of the crisis in the economy. The crisis of failures of political leadership the crisis of the responsibilities of the state most importantly arrived for the positions of the IMF World Bank is a structural adjustment program that I everywhere unconstitutional because they were considered very clear selection system talks in terms of the objective of government is to to ensure the a penis of the citizen you see and conduct their car.
Speaker 1: How
Speaker 2: many charts way that what is not concentrated in a few hours at the expense of the majority so and 2007 it was react about his greatest achievement in an interview and it was said that his Hope was to make up a true T bolonia out of Nigeria as part of the Konami Code captive by choice today. We will be making 25 so you can imagine that the aspect of routing the Act of on that development of the country you see philosophy you see that vs pouch. I lying with the neoliberal agenda that Society go right from what will you do now? None of them is different. It is simple it is that they implemented and the same policy that is domestic crisis politically economically and in every phase of life in Nigeria to and that is why that fighting the police In system vulnerabilities in system is just a manifestation is just a reactions are to the deep-seated with inserted problem that we have in the country. Right and in fact the new constitution in 1999 if I understand correctly required that the economy develop be developed in a way that would create greater economic equality at the matter. So fat neoliberal policies is unknown to the Nigerian Constitution before it is clear that government shamanic the major sectors of the economy. The oil industry is a major settlement dry Konami the electricity industry or energy industry is a major settlement Drive Konami and it is clear explicitly stated in the Constitution 0 LEAP program of Attached on monetization the revolution is on not true that constitutions. What have you see, you have a bitterness and input sessions because the objective is very clear. It doesn’t work with me to do about the economy. So everything is that our be wrong on the bridge of privatizations. This is known as acceptable to the Nigerian Constitution. Can you talk a little bit about the current? Action against the protesters. I understand that there have been murders arrests. Now the government is stopping access to money for people involved in the protests and trying to control social media you can you can you talk about some of that. Yeah, what is happening currently suspected. We don’t let friends from folks who look at the conduct of the struggle itself and the responses for the state. And if you press release the government of his agents what no time in support of that protest we go that protest directly gives them. So the further you have some governor’s some idiot of government try to commend the protest is to profile the protest for the purpose of the advanced interventions as the point, which is because in Nigeria already there almost three categories of huge you see you have the ideological you That those youth who have been part of the struggle into the movement. Don’t you that governments have used their agent in the student movement to repress and deny the defendant unionism. So those categories of Youth you say a huge issue for every protects of the working people of the poor people. They are always been involved and make their demands. You have a watch with the economy direction of Nigeria. What should be there? Police got directions of Nigeria. So you have to shoot you have the other categories of Youth that our government has criminalized from time to time but in the student movement and outside the student movement, they are the huge that they are used to commit violence at elections. You see they are the youth that have become vulnerable for ostrich taking brigand H that take place in the country. Then you have the new generation you that I call. The Twitter Generations who have become British you see of police arrest metabolic. They are lightly doped by the leadership of the answered protest. So these other categories of Youth that got me used to commit violence while the kind of Judah are first introduced after a week of the answered protest to attack those other two categories of future. They are the one used to create confusion. This type with like that movement and the same youth don’t think about who are the same one used after the violence of October 20 by the military you see to move into the street into looting into attack and social world of private property. So use my work class of position against the other as to discredit a criminal like that route and that’s exactly what happened. Right? It’s a comment actor. Yeah. This is actually does it is and it so the government is now really doubt is true portrait. And that is why why all those processions Expressions were being done by the youth the government was busy doing using these intelligent and doing infiltrators into that movement to assess informations about those who play a critical role in that Uprising. So it is those who play critical that our prices that are now so It for that victimization that is what is happening. The government is not truly revealing his character as a repressive vindictive. You see an irresponsible government who want to kill his youth for expressing their descent. Can you talk about some of the connections between the United States police and military and the Nigerian police and military? What is that relationship? Yeah. Does it know Colonial relationship? He’s right from Independence about in a drama military and Britain and the United States because most of the security forces are trained at the us or Britain or at the recommendations of the US military establishment. So that is clear because shortly after Independence the first step to make Nigerian military at push of Britain was taken and Idea was to be committed to sign the include defense part in 1961. He took the Nigerian students national student to protect. You. See I moved to the day National Assembly at the probably was core to put a stop on that legislation and stop need to have been a military Outpost of Britain. So this whole thing is about the African command that us has nine portion Africa fact from the point of Gulf of Guinea. Because the whole idea of that discussion was to make Nigerian play Central rule. You see the African command as a puppet of the u.s. You see and there are resistance to that which not entirely succeeded because our level of military pact military relationship Nigeria asks some coverage and possibly over at arrangement with the United States of America as I today. We have the first in touch. Corporations in Nigeria 25% of Nigerian body going to security there is no single arm that that defense industrial cooperation is being produced. So almost everything that is needed in terms of security Wireless gadgets arms and ammunitions have been imported the implication being that 25% of Nigerian budget goes into Capital flight every year right from the vast majority Jim to this current regime. Secondly you see and that is question that everyone was asked how come a military at the former military aid of State who rejected taking IMF and up there for contact rate between 84 and 85 could not accept IMF conditionality. How come the agreement between worry and President Trump on Boko Haram on fighting this urgency. So these are all You that draw out of the same coercive impositions of militarism also that we are experiencing in Nigeria. And that is why the political economy of the war against Boko Haram is more from Capital flight more from exploitations because the issues remain in that territory goes beyond and I’m fight is not a nun fight. You see it’s a political socio-economic issue and the core political. Our socio-economic Solutions in might need all young Nigerians of age 5 to 21 in the for wall of the school whether the primary the secondary and I detach re-level. Imagine what their philosophy about life will be there with no Nigerian child talking and it is on the road. They are we not Nigerian child rendered homeless on the route because you believe for World of whether the primary circuit. The Virtuous or the poor techniques you see and there were dark look definitely will change and will not be available as Machinery to bring couch receiver Boko Haram of any other disorder that you have in the country. So instead of putting those resources to arms and ammunition those are resources for social and economic development in imagining that naghralla resources are used for public interest. So that issue so you can Not end book were around where you have disconnected in terms of national planning economic planning political planning majority of the young ones you see and as he instituted a philosophy of suffering if you lots of you’re begging a philosophy of being available as vulnerable materials for creating social disorders and crisis in the country. That is exactly what is happening because the profit from the crisis when you pour shoot a program of Scioscia, One and economic development so that the context and that’s why we insist that the question to resolve in. Nigeria is not about elections the first question to resolve energy like that who controls the economy and for what purpose right? Because that will control the economy of the crumbing for public interest. You can determine the kind of Parliament that which you asked whether we just need a 50 member Parliament not a polymer that is available for the purpose of looting and me. Is managing the resources of the country we can determine if a kind of political system that want to wrong and what is my primary towards the University’s lecturers are been on strike since February now many are were several months five months eight months salary the major issues of funding of the US and co-founder of the world. It’s not addressed. So there is no way country can make progress so it is rad lab to run a military program. Graham of routine into the pocket of few universities to the ashram stabbing of The Universities at signed agreement with the federal government since 2009 and level years ago design agreement is 1.3 trillion area is to revamp over 74 universities across the country to get them to have up-to-date facilities. That is the essence of that font as we speak now 20% of that agreement a level year running as not be implemented. So how do you move forward in such a country yet? You have a country that we invest for turnaround maintainers into the power sector about Tyrion red billionaire another cell the same gonna run power sector 400 billion and as out today again. I’ve invested wisely. Did you claim you have privatized 1.7 trillion? So all the seafood so that is the challenge because I let Robinson’s not become Avenue to loot the country to ruin the country. And that is why what is my primary The Challenge from the answer today is that young ones needs to Define clearly that the problem in the country goes beyond answer the answer that you be talking about is to end bad government. It is to defy public interest in government is to deflect Claire gender of transforming this Society on the part of human development that is challenged to think so and that is why Alexa is not primarily because they were always rig the election the world was loot the money for you can the election so because of public of had become Avenue for looting and to for that sustain yourself power because once you have looted resources you create instrumental violence. 2007 two offices so that is what is happening. Thank you. So finally, can you just say to our listeners? Is there something in the in the United States that we can be doing to show solidarity or to support the Nigerian struggle? Yeah, I think the question majority of our solidarity between Nigerians and the people of the u.s. Is to First understand that we have some common problem common problem. With the sense that as a different like I tell people between the American establishment that I stamp resist and the American people the American who are great people you see so far for Nigerians who always thinks about everything is settled in America. They were to be able to understand that the way you have repression are there’s much more. So repressions in America. There’s no awesome much more suffering in America and that the Americans who have to struggle to survive to have the kind of Freedom the kind of Leverage that they’re having a didactic first thing. You see that fact a changes in terms of of correct information as again the disinformation order to say about the reality of the American people. It’s very important. So that a changes is important to there is a need for change our level political education and to see the international dimensions of this rock because our struggle in Nigeria is meaningless if you are not concerned about the fit Of Upon A bootcamp Brothers across the world you are not concerned about the Working Class People across the world because the interests of the working class in Washington the same interest in Cuba, it is same interest in Nigeria. So I shrug will be really full if Cuba is under blockade when the Israelites on that block it Nicaragua is being harassed by night instead of America who cannot lend her voice into that our concern is about it. Humanity you see that the lesson that the people in America is suffering people in America, there’s blood everywhere in America and the same as plaintiff who have in Nigeria. You have everywhere in Africa. And that is the unity you see and the level of those who are being exploited having of pressed to find the common enemy that a band across our several nation-state as to move forward. So that is the kind of food. I agree that were spread. And you see beyond that because when you talk in terms of support, they are be much more supporting to Africa to C to D. Ideologized Africa in the name of found them. You see the name of green augmenta organizational work. You see that are no addressing the fundamental basis of our own development fundamental business who are suffering so much more the kind of support that is required is how to develop a capacity as a woman to take us Universal human, too. Right together as woman to liberate the woman in Nigerian woman in Africa and human all over the world. I think for us that’s much more impact that we can make materials. So it’s a meaningless in the absence of a qualitative Human Resources. So the kind of support we want is how do we do some kind of a changes that can develop us as human as to be able to overcome some of Of those challenges that wearable comrade. I’m Jordana removed. Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today and to explain to our listeners what is happening in Nigeria and the deep roots of it and how it’s so connected internationally. Thank you for taking that time the pleasure of speaking.