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It has turned out so far, to be the only centenary conference marking the passage of Vladimir Lenin, the first person to lead a socialist revolution. The other activity was in Moscow where flowers were laid in his mausoleum.
In Abuja, Nigeria, over 300 of us from Nigeria, United States, Cuba, Ghana, South Africa, Venezuela, Palestine, Russia and United Kingdom met physically for two days from 22-23 January, 2024 to mark the 21 January, 1924 exit of Lenin. We were joined virtually by people from various countries, especially in Europe.
As the Chair of the Conference Coordinating Committee, I said the main issue is the examination of Lenin’s ideas, especially within the context of current global challenges, and how they can help extricate humanity from crises.
Conference Chairperson, Professor Warisu Alli, a political scientist and international relations expert, said apart from its international dimensions, the conference offers Nigerians an opportunity to review the state of the country, especially its high levels of unemployment, increasing poverty, frightening insecurity, as well as to chart the way forward.
Professor Nuhu Yaqub, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, and Sokoto State University, said Lenin was able to mobilise and lead the workers; so what we need is leadership of that calibre that can bring about progressive change.
Cuban Ambassador, Miriam Morales Palmero, emphasized the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, adding that Cubans are convinced that socialism is “the only possible solution to the serious problems facing humanity…”
Russian Embassy Councellor, Andrey Savushkin, said the ideals of Lenin are still alive in the hearts of Russians a century after his passage.
Palestinian Ambassador, Abdullah Abu Shawesh, argued that the issue in the Palestine is not Israelis versus Palestinians, or about religion. Rather, it is the aim of imperialists to exploit and dominate people. He added that the region should be safe for everyone with justice and freedom for all. The audience rose in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The representative of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, Yaw Appiah-Kubi, asserted that Lenin showed humanity that the world is not given and can be recreated for all, irrespective of race, ethnicity and other divides.
The International Communist League representative, Raymond Bishop, who flew in from the United States said the League does not see how any meaningful discussion on human development can hold without tapping into the ideas of Lenin. He added that key problems in the universe, including the underdevelopment of Africa and Latin America, can be defeated with proper programming.
President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Joe Ajaero, said Leninism encourages workers to transcend their immediate economic concerns and recognise their broader class interests, which involves the masses taking control of their country. He added that the new Minimum Wage, to be negotiated, should not be seen solely as the business of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, but rather, as a collective struggle in which all should join.
The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, recalled that when in 2018 his party proposed a National Minimum Wage of N100,000, a workers’ party made fun of his party, claiming that it would cause inflation. He argued that it is not wages that will cause inflation but rather the system being run.
Ene Obi, former Country Representative of ActionAid Nigeria, noted that many of the poor who have gained admission into tertiary institutions have been unable to register as students due to high school fees. She pointed out that if the Nigerian state invests in human capital, it will not be doing anybody a favour, but would instead be addressing the problems of human capital and the economy.
The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, posited that the unprecedented looting in the country has become so endemic that it demands peoples’ intervention. Represented by Professor Adelaja Odukoya, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos, the ASUU President added that the crises in Nigerian require that the working people, in line with Lenin’s ideas, go beyond theory to the level of praxis.
Twenty six papers were presented and discussed at the conference. Former Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, Ambassador Usman Sarki, made a presentation on “The Philosophical Foundations of Lenin’s Foreign Policy and its influence on State Relations”. He noted that, with the severe and unprecedented sanctions against Russia, the country is employing the same strategies Lenin adopted after the October 1917 Revolution when it was under siege by imperialist countries. The strategies, he added, include appealing for solidarity from non-Western countries and building closer relations with African, Arab, Latin American and Asian nations. These paid off handsomely.
Papers by the elderly radicals in the country include “Back to Lenin: A Political Introduction” by mathematician and journalist, Dr Edwin Madunagu. Professor Abubakar Mohammed Sokoto spoke on the “The Relevance of Marxist Theory in the Teaching of Sociology in Academic Institutions.” Jonathan Ihonde, who 61 years ago created the long running satirical drama series, ‘Hotel De Jordan’, wrote on “Maxify Lenin In Our Clime.”
On the other hand, the papers by the young generation included: “The Dialectics of Terrorism: Exploring the October 20, 2020 Lekki Toll Gate Massacre from a Marxist Lens” by Olusegun Michael Ogundele; and “Students, Youths and the Struggle for Total Liberation” by Juwon Sanyaolu, one of the leaders of the EndSARS (Anti-Police brutality) Movement.
South African Lawrence Mmoiloi spoke on: “The Breakdown of US Hegemony and the Struggle for Workers Power.” His comrade, Jesse Altman, presented a paper on “South Africa: In Defence of a Permanent Revolution.” Dew Povey of the Socialist Labour, United Kingdom, spoke on: “Lenin Supported Strikes as Seeds of Working Class Self-Emancipation.”
Two ladies, Comrades Ene Obi and Hauwa Mustapha, the Chairperson of the Closing Session, carried out ‘a revolutionary coup’ at the conference when they organised a surprise birthday for former ASUU President, Dr Dipo Fashina, who on January, 23, 2024, turned 76. Fashina, a philosophy lecturer delivered a paper on: “The Growth and Development of Leninism.” In it, he examined the centrality of Africa in Lenin’s theory of imperialism; his impact on African socialism; and espousal on students, youths and trade unions in revolution.
The conference was a beautiful mixture of the old and young, women and men, academics and non-academics, political theorists and political activists. Notably were students, mainly from the Bingham University, Keffi, who displayed a thirst for knowledge, raised critical questions, and demonstrated a grasp for issues.
Fittingly for a Lenin programme, it was a conference populated by people who are not afraid of ideas, are willing to discuss and are ready to go wherever ideas lead.
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