The Edwin Madunagu Factor in the Nigerian Left – A 75th birthday thank you note – By Lanre Arogundade

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It must have been around the period of the 80th anniversary of the Russian Socialist Revolution that our then organisation – the Labour Militant – the precursor to today’s Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), approached Comrade Edwin Madunagu, with the suggestion of a lecture-tour of select University campuses to talk about and re-popularize the ideas of marxism and socialism.

This was in the aftermath of the ripples caused by the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and other ‘socialist’ regimes in Eastern Europe, and the attendant problems it posed for leftist organisations in raising the banner of socialism, which had become easy to be referred to as failures having also been falsely alleged to be antithetical to democratic values although the bureaucratic deformity of the collapsed regimes were a reality.

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Turning to Eddie with the suggestion was not accidental. Prior to and after the collapse of the Soviet Union he remained committed to the ideas of Marxism and used his pen, especially through his weekly Thursday column in The Guardian newspapers to raise polemic on the imperative of a socialist revolution to save mankind from being confined into barbarism by the combination of imperialist domination and ruthless exploitation by a dependent local or national capitalist class – a class that has been made to swallow the pill of neo-liberal economic policies and has thus being ruthlessly exploiting its peoples.

It was doubtful if there was any aspect of the left debate – building a left political party, the national question, the farmers and agrarian question, the participation in bourgeois politics question, the women question, the youths and students question, the political and ideological question, the imperialist question, the neo-colonial question, etc., – that Eddie had by then not written upon. And of course he has written much more since then.

To our disappointment, Eddie declined to embark on the proposed tour but did proceed to write a lengthy article thereafter according to Comrade Adewale Bashir, in which he commended the fact that the Labout Militant was being published and circulated as a leftist paper.

I had a second and perhaps more personal disappointment when about 2000 – 2002, I invited Eddie to be a speaker at one of the roundtables being organised at the inception stage of the International Press Centre (IPC) on the issues of press freedom and democracy and especially the budding advocacy for the Freedom of Information Act. He told me his first instinct was to decline since the programme was being supported by foreign donors,  an idea which he seriously detested. I explained that I understood his position but also stated that with the background of some of us, we felt such platforms could also be used to advance our revolutionary perspectives in spite of the sponsors, hence his choice. He agreed after some back and forth, but a couple of days later he changed his mind and said with some apology that he had finally decided not to participate. It was a memorable tale of twist and turns.

While the participation of Eddy in the two events as proposed years back might have helped to advance the immediate and long term objectives, we must nonetheless acknowledge that Eddy’s intellectual and polemical contributions have helped to attain both theoretical and practical objectives, if we apply dialectics to our analysis. Theory, after all, is supposed to be a guide to action, and if Eddy has spent the better part of his time trying to enrich theoretical thoughts on the challenge of successfully prosecuting a socialist revolution, it should also be understood that he has also indirectly helped to develop the compass of what should be practical actions to move in the right direction.

As a matter of fact the radical and revolutionary heights attained by the students movement in the 1970s, the 1980s and part of the 1990s cannot be divorced from the political and organizational role played by Eddie and other members of his generation who as punishment for such were subjected to harassment and repression by the military including the dismissal of himself and the comrade wife, Bene from the University of Calabar by the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime for their leading role in the ‘Ali-Must-Go- struggle of 1978.

More importantly, the incisiveness and perceptiveness of the writings are a reflection of his practical involvement in building the forces of the revolution among the youths, workers, farmers, the peasantry and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as exemplified by his works in the Revolutionary Directorate (RD) and other leftist organisations of which he had been founder, member and leader at different historical junctures in Nigeria’s chequered history. Eddie’s own account of the exploits of the RD as partly documented in his tribute to Biodun Jeyifo (BJ) at 75 and Kayode Komolafe (KK) at 60 in 2020 is worth reading for the useful lessons they offer.

Back to the matter at hand however, it is worth stressing that socialist Ideas as documented in the likes of Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, The German Ideology, etc., helped to build the revolutionary consciousness of our generation and if we consider the fact that the Russian revolution is now more than a century old, then the importance of the work of modern day interpreters and illustrators of marxism and scientific socialism cannot be over emphasised. They serve as veritable links between the past and the present; and they provide fountains of knowledge from which future generations can tap from.

I believe it is in the above context that we should acknowledge and commend the monuments of knowledge about left ideology and left politics that Eddie has built over the years through his writings, notably the book, ‘Problems of Socialism: The Nigerian Left Challenge’.

His writings and documentations should also be rightly recognised and appraised as veritable pieces of the history of Nigeria from the prism of a socialist interventionist – one that helps to correct historical distortions by the bourgeois class. It is indeed common knowledge that if you do not write your own history, others will not only write it for you, but they will also distort it.

On these and many other accounts, we cannot but say, thank you to Eddie as we wish him happy birthday and many more years in the revolutionary service.

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