Dele Seteolu pays tribute to Abubakar Momoh, an activist academic
At a time when many are positioning themselves for 2023, I would particularly like to thank the Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) for having deemed it appropriate and timely to convene this event in order to remember and celebrate an academic-activist, Abubakar Momoh, professor of political theory. Humans, by their very nature, are forgetful. Thus, the Center is to be commended for having deemed it good and important to remember a specialist in organic agriculture; especially in a country where the morally bankrupt light-hearted and intellectuals are widely revered. Given that I was a colleague, friend and comrade of Abou who witnessed some of his activities as an enigmatic activist, needless to say, I am delighted to be invited to deliver this talk.
My presentation is divided into four main parts. It begins with an introduction that will lead to a short speech on Momoh and her interaction with what I call “the African and Africanist intellectual universe”. This second section will be followed by a third which will highlight Momoh’s postulates on democracy, democratization, de-democratization and 2023. My presentation ends with why it is important to remember our heroes and heroines “from below”. – like Momoh – in our contemporary interrogation of the socio-economic and political challenges facing Nigeria and indeed Africa.
The late Professor Abubakar Momoh had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and rigorous analysis; it was polemical, didactic, intellectually deep and posed alternative constructions to existing orthodoxies. His writings were articulated within the Marxist analytical framework for interrogating social, political and development issues at the local and global level. Momoh, though opting for Marxian theory and the political economy approach, was scholarly in competing bourgeois theories. He deconstructed the social struggles that underlie state policies and political actions through the materialistic interpretation of social reality without falling back into economic determinism.
The late political science professor was concerned about the contradictions of Nigeria’s political economy amid the socio-economic conditions of working people, the urban poor and rural peasants. He criticized economic policies and political actions that have pauperized, alienated and impoverished the mass of the Nigerian people. Comrade Momoh was a strong critic of market reforms in transitional societies, including Nigeria. He has published several books on market reforms, development trajectories, the impact of state economic policies on weak social classes, the fallacy of development based on abstraction without the required human development, and political philosophy. of development.
Abu’s activist role at the University of Lagos was remarkable, even profound. He participated in the programs of the Thomas Sankara Movement, Youth Solidarity on South Africa (YOUSSA), and other centrist and left-wing organizations on campus. He became a visible and regular speaker at public events on many campuses, especially the main campus of the University of Lagos in the 1980s. Momoh was passionate about his beliefs, ideas, and worldview; he was a consummate orator who had the gift of oratory and eloquence. Campuses in Nigeria were particularly exciting in the 1970s-80s. This coincided with Cold War politics amid the preponderance of regular debates on national and international affairs. Coincidentally, these citadels were populated, at that time, by some of the most intellectual and didactic scholars across ideological trends like Patrick Wilmot, Late Eskor Toyo, Late Bade Onimode, Late Claude Ake, Late Ojetunji Aboyade, Late Bala Usman, Toye Olorode, Dipo Fasina, Tekina Tamuno, Late Akinjogbin, Alaba Ogunsanwo, Bolaji Akinyemi, Omo Omoruyi, the late Peter Ekeh and Africanist scholars Gavin Williams, Bjorn Beckman, Billy Dudley et al. Campuses “bubbled” with lively dialogue and debate on topical issues, which angered and distrusted military dictators. It should be noted that Abu figured prominently in these trajectories of post-colonial Nigeria as a student and later as a university professor.
The late Professor Momoh was visible in the business movement and civil society organizations. He used the Labor platform to address Nigerian social and economic issues and labor issues. He deconstructed traditional industrial relations, which had been characterized by “quietism”. He insisted that this follower raise critical questions about labor relations and working-class conditions; and to propose alternatives to existing orthodoxies in the context of working class interests. He has been sought by some of the major trade unions such as the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the Iron and Steel Workers Union, the Health and Medicine, Maritime Workers’ Union, Civil Service Union, etc. . Abu was also prominent in the programs and political actions of civil society organizations. Centrist and radical civil society groups also offered platforms for Momoh to ventilate her ideas on major local and global issues. This academic activist has featured prominently in the programs of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), the Campaign for Democracy (CD), the Front d Action Joint (JAF), Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), United Action for Democracy (UAD), Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) and others. He served as the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Lagos State University (LASU) and National Treasurer of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Comrade Momoh was rooted in Africa as shown in his interventions and collaborations with pro-mass collectives such as Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA), African Political Science Association (AAPS). He had a physical and intellectual interface with high-level African intellectuals and Africanist scholars. He had immense respect for these scholars and carefully read the works of Samir Amir, Issa Shivji, Thandika Mkandawire, Walter Rodney, Cheik Anta Diop, Amilcal Cabra, Claude Ake, Bade Onimode, Eskor Toyo, Horace Campbell, Bjorn Beckman, Gavin Williams , Late Bala Usman, Yusuf Bangura, Tijanni Bande and Rauf Mustapha et al. His work has been greatly influenced by the original thoughts and perspectives of these scholars, particularly on African issues. He did not despise liberal scholarship and celebrated the works of Adele Jinadu, who wrote a profound doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of Frank Fanon, Bayo Adekanye, Alex Gboyega, Adigun Agbaje, Okechukwu Ibeanu, Tade Akin Aina et al.
This article notes the connection between Abu’s scholarship and his activism. Both focused on the contradictions within the Nigerian state and globally, and on the challenge of organizing intellectual struggles to liberate exploited, alienated and disempowered social groups on the basis of new social relations at the production. He was therefore a public intellectual who relied on knowledge for social liberation, especially of the repressed social classes. For Professor Momoh, ”the public intellectual works according to four main principles. The first is the principle of patriotism which implies the conviction that to be patriotic is much more noble than to be sectional, sectarian and ethnic. The second is the principle of public good. This implies that a public and common good has a utilitarian meaning and value for the majority of citizens than the private or individual good that serves the interest of a few people. Third, the public intellectual is the conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless, articulating its interests and granting agency to subordinates, lumpen and the working class. Fourth, “the public intellectual values or essentializes ideas believing that change can only happen through ideas of change and transformation”.
The scholar-activist has passionately probed his views on election, democracy and the issue of democratization in Africa. He was the Director General of the “Electoral Institute” (TEI), in Abuja. He reintroduced rigorous research to the Institute and ensured that staff members were exposed to diverse experiences of election management in different countries. As Director General, he sought critical input from academics and civil society organizations on various aspects of elections. He re-examined the dilemmas of politically linked violence and inconclusive elections as the orgy of political violence and inconclusive elections had assumed major obstacles to the consolidation of Nigerian democracy. Ironically, he was the victim of electoral violence during the Ekiti gubernatorial elections under Dr Fayemi’s tenure. He had traveled to Ekiti to monitor the elections but was ambushed by an exuberant and reckless mob which inflicted serious injuries on him. This rather unfortunate incident drew local and international condemnation; he pointed to the nature of politics in Nigeria as one of war and a bitter struggle for state power. The Nigerian state is therefore a conquered ground to consolidate class interests and objectives.
Excerpts from a lecture by Dr Seteolu at the 5e Professor Abubakar Momoh Memorial in Abuja