Peter Sedgwick

Nigerian workers

(15 February 1966)

From Labour Worker, 15 February 1966.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

IT IS now clear that, whichever military faction eventually comes out on top in the Nigerian junta, the army has taken over from bourgeois pseudo-democracy. General Ironsi governs, responsible to no civilian authority: strictly speaking, his regime is unconstitutional since the cabinet meeting that abdicated its power to him sine die was not empowered to do so.

These irregularities have not prevented the Wilson government from recognising him, or The Guardian, Tribune and New Statesman from welcoming his accession.

Jolly old Ironsides, we are to gather, is a Sandhurst chap who will establish order in an incomplete federal spirit. The summary executions in the early days of the regime reminiscent of Hitler’s Long Knives Night) have set off no qualms, except for a regulated spate of ritual mourning for the obscurely assassinated prime minister Sir Abubakar.

Meanwhile, behind Ironsi, stands another Old Sandhurstian, Major Nzeogwu. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph correspondent on January 22, Nzeogwu made it clear that Ironsi was on the original murder list and survived by borrowing the first conspiracy’s tactics and that the ideology of the first coup was aimed towards the extermination of all parties and trade unions. The new regime has hastened to declare itself against any nationalisation of foreign-owned companes and to ingratiate itself with big business.

Nigeria has held the largest authentic trade union movement in the whole of Africa, with a record of independent action culminating in the magnificent general strike of two years ago. The present junta appears to have come into being without even token support from working-class action, without militias, supporting strikes, demonstrations or other popular manifestation.

It is a military despotism created through despotic means. These are dangerous days for the future of Nigeria’s working-class organisations, and the labour movement in this country must be alert to the fearful and bloody possibilities that may ensue.

Whether Pompey or Caesar wins, or both find a mode of ruling jointly, is a matter of indifference for the interests of Nigeria’s workers and poor farmers. Shorn of its grotesque tribal-parliamentary mask, the pro-imperialist order in Nigeria confronts and challenges the masses.


Peter Sedgwick, Oxford CLP


Last updated on 25.11.2004