The spate of killings across the country: the need to interrogate our social contract and consider self-defence


By Comrade Ogbu A. Ameh

Human societies historically are replete with gory tales of killings prompted by violent conflicts among people for different reasons. These reasons encompass; conflicting interests, competition for scarce resources, ethnic, racial, religious and ideological differences. Over time, the litanies of socially constructed barriers expand to cover newgrounds. This goes to confirm beliefs that the human race is the greatest enemy of itself after Nature.


However, from ancient time through different epoch of human socio-economic and political evolution, the spate of violent killings increased in sophistication, brutality and wantonness. This horrible and distasteful trajectory of violence was perhaps the prime motive for the concept of “Social Contract” by the early Philosophers in the Western world.  


“Social Contract” is the agreement entered into by individuals that result in the formation of the state or of organized society; the prime motives being the desire for protection, which entails the surrender of some or all personal liberties.


It is against this backdrop that I engage and interrogate the government of the Nigerian state today. Over the years since independence, lives of the Nigerian citizens have become increasingly cheap that any group of lunatics, fanatics, criminals and even the state security agents could dispense with at the blink of an eye.


Life in Nigeria can best be described in the same term as it were in the western world before its philosophers theorized “Social Contract”, “nasty, brutish and short”. Nigeria as a country in this 21st century has plunge into pre-history that the western philosophers abhorred by re-inventing through their civilization to conceive social contract theories. Where is the social contract that exists between the government of the Nigeria state and her citizens today?

We in the vanguard of change from below under the aegis of Generation for Change Africa Initiative condemns vehemently the spate of wanton systemic genocide going on around the country disguised as Herders/ Farmers clash over natural resource that has become scarce due to government negligence and unresponsiveness exacerbates by Climate Change.

These violence risk factors often find expressions in; hate speech, which in Africa had been responsible for most civil wars and genocide. Exploiting identity markers by politicians waving ethnic and religious symbols to incite supporters into sentiments instead of focusing on issues based politics during electioneering campaigns. It has been an established fact that religion had been responsible for divisions among people in every human society than ethnic and race.

Now, let us look at the dominant causes of violent killings globally and nationally as I situate it within the context of our country Nigeria. Global capitalism and imperialism have spread its tentacles from the core to the peripheries. This global spread carries in its wake the evils of the dominant economic mode of production relations. Thus inequalities, exploitation, oppression, injustice, corruption, competition, higher crime wave, social conflicts and unrest are offshoot of discontents. The shade of its manifestation sometimes could be militancy, insurgency and terrorism. However, it could be guided by theoretical and conscious radical activists through practical mass mobilization to become a political revolution.

It is this capitalism inspired violence risk factors that trigger latent primordial human urge for violent killings in modern societies across the world and Nigeria in particular.  Different people globally have intensified efforts towards recreating old identities in religion, ethnic and race to reclaim their self and group identity. We in the Leftist Vanguard for Socialist Alternative to the dominant economic system must look beyond the common narratives spin by mainstream media and the state that the unexplained spate of killings is basically herders/farmers clashes.

The herder/farmers violent clashes have connections to global climate change resulting in fierce desertification across the sub-Sahara Africa. This devastating havoc to the ecosystem has ripple effects in the mass migration of herders and their cattle into wetlands in the Benue Plateau trough and far down the Southern parts of the country. The result is the escalating wave of violent clashes and killings today. Another political connection is the failure of the federal government and its federating state counterparts to formulate and implement policies that would have addressed the major production and management issues of cattle ranching in modern time. The deliberate politicizing of Land Use Act and ethno-religious motives guiding state actors and other political stakeholders in their political will power to act or not.  These two past cardinal mistakes today have reawakened a new topic in our national conversation between victims and perceive perpetrators of violent killings as they engage in war of words.

To compound what seems a deliberate but costly mistake is the near absence of state security apparatus at the rural areas of the country’s vast landmass. Instead, the security agencies concentrate the deployment of their operatives in the urban areas and their clientele V I Ps, multinational oil and gas companies and criminals who pay for security protection. This practice truly reflects commoditization of every aspect of social services as dictated by capitalism. Hence, the countrysides of Nigeria became vulnerable to vagabonds, outlaws and criminals on the rampage in a show of survival of the fittest and jungle justice.  

All these vicious scenarios playing out go to show the inherent weakness of the capitalist system and indict the state actors of the bourgeois democracy. However, it opens a vista to alternative narratives from the Socialist point of view for a new society that is possible through mass struggles. We begin to interrogate the system by asking salient questions like; how is it possible for a President or Governor to treat state resources and the entire apparatus of the state as his personal properties? We can go back in history to quote Bratton and Van Dan Valle drawing on Max Webber’s theory of Patriarchal Authority in backward cultures.

He advanced that; neo patriarchal tendency manifest in leaders ruling through clientele practices and force, they fail to exhibit sufficient control over their own creations. The oversize state apparatus built on clientele principles is expensive to maintain, largely incompetent and unwilling to follow directives coming from the top (many instances abound of which the recent President’s directive to the IGP to relocate to Benue State, which he disobeyed is one). The swelling of public offices entails increasing amounts of money required to provide for the salaries.

This is in a great measure the reasons for insufficient public investment. The neo-patrimonial authority was building a contradiction between the redistributive practices of the state on one side and long-term accumulation on the other. Our feudal past makes it possible for our people to genuflect before political figures, easily satisfied with crumbs while the godfathers gobble it up with private jets and personal houses all over the world.

In a recent Facebook post by Comrade Gbenga Komolafe in which he dealt extensively interrogating the state and the bourgeoisie politicians who run the state, I borrowed deeper insight and information while researching. The post caught my attention and I did judiciously infuse his criticism, castigation and deconstruction of the political class narratives in Nigeria given the apparent signs of A Failed State.

I may have to draw a conclusion here as I quote Larry Diamond who observed that; “Neo-patriarchal regimes make the system unstable as identity, power and resources conflicts mix in a volatile brew prone to explosion”. This prophetic observation is a clarion call on the Leftists in Nigeria and the global international to realign, strategize and put theories into practical action to take back their countries.

Comrade Ogbu A. Ameh examining State of The Nation. He is also the National Convener Generation for Change Africa Initiative (GFCAI).