Here we publish extracts of an interview with Samuel, General Secretary of the Awareness League, the newest section of the International Workers Association, the anarcho-syndicalist international. The interview took place in Spain in August 1994, and is translated from "Le Combat Syndicaliste".
Mona: Do you think there is a real danger of civil war in Nigeria? Is there any chance for free elections to take place?
Samuel: The way things are developing there is a real danger of civil war. You must remember that Nigeria has already been through a civil war, between 1967-70, when the east of the country proclaimed independence as the Republic of Biafra. All the elements of that crisis are present today;
A. The controversial federal elections of 1964 and the annulled presidential elections of 1993.
B: The trial and imprisonment for treason of one of the leaders of the opposition in the sixties, and the same thing today with Abiola.
C: The military coup in 66, strong possibilities of a coup in the near future.
D: The secesson of the east in 67. The West and some ethnic groups in the east are demanding a confederation with regional armies.
War isn't inevitable. We still remember the lesson we were taught in 67. Furthermore if internal and external pressure can force the army to surrender power in the next six months, atht ought to prevent the catastrophe.
As for the elections, the experience under Babangida's regime shows we cannot trust the military [..]
Mona: Does the Awareness League take part in the strikes, and in what ways?
Samuel: Yes our members are involved in the strikes. Principally our membership are civil servants, students, professors, university teachers, journalists and other activists on the left. There is a national strike in the Universities, which our militants participate in and certain public services are also on strike where our militants are active. Many of the head offices of the newspapers are closed and occupied by soldiers, but our militants are still present.
Mona: What is the position of the AL towards the elections?
Samuel: The elections for President on 12th June 1993 were between Moshood Abiola (candidate of the Social Democratic Party) and Bashir Tofa, candidate of the right and also of the army. All progressive groups, unions, pro-democracy organisations and left organisations, including AL, supported the candidate of the SDP. This action was a vote against the Army. The AL believe that installing a government of the centre left is a minimal condition for the development and propagation of anarcho-syndicalist struggle. (See Black Flag 203 for more analysis on this.)
Mona: Do you co-operate with other organisations in Nigeria and Africa?
Samuel: The AL collabarate with movements for human rights, with the Campaign for Democracy, even though we are not members of them. There is a new organisation which is being formed called the Left Coalition, in which AL participates. Our next congress must ratify this choice.
We have tried to establish, without success, contacts with left oriented and anarchist organisations from other countries in Africa, particularly South Africa.
Mona: What are the AL's fields of activity? To which social groups and professions do your members belong?
Samuel: Our activities are mainly in the field of workers in education, and our work is propaganda and mobilisation. [..]
Mona: Are there any women in the AL and what are their activities?
Samuel: Unfortunately, there are very few women in the AL. That is because of the structure of African society, where women rarely play a part in political activities. The vast majority of women do not benefit from the education system [..] We must do much work in raising the consciousness of women. [..]
Published in Black Flag #206 Autumn 1995
Libcom note - this didn't actually appear in issue 206 of Black Flag...
An interview with Sam Mbah
An interview with Sam Mbah will be circulating in a few months time. The Awareness League disbanded some time ago. They slowly began to lose
membership as the military ceeded power to civilian rule. As some of us
surmised, a lot of the AL work was aimed and directed at the repressive
military regime, with folks joining their rolls based on this work.
Some of the AL participants are still active in civil and social movement stuff.
Mainly campaiging against corruption and some other stuff.
While disappointing that the AL was not able to sustain itself as a libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist organization (and a one time affiliate of the I.W.A.),
I am glad an effort was made to track down and speak with some of their former members.
One can only hope that in the years ahead, our perspectives will find some stability and long term growth on the African continent.
La lutta continua....the struggle continues!
The 2012 interview with Sam
The 2012 interview with Sam Mbah can be found on his new blog: sammbah.wordpress.com.
Sam discusses the Awareness League, african anarchism, the capitalist crisis and the fuel-tax uprising, unions in Nigeria and more.
The interview is available as a series of short articles and as one long transcript. It is also available in audio form. There are also two separate short videos, recorded with Sam at the same time. Please share widely.