CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Reconnecting Social Movements

Social movements in Nigeria have historically mobilized against injustices to cause big changes in the society, especially around the character of governance and social welfare. From the anti-colonial struggles that paved way for independence to the mass opposition against military rule in the country, which ushered in democracy, Nigerians have consistently congregated to build campaigns on fundamental issues of concern. 

However, despite the many notable interventions and wins secured by social movements, there are real concerns around the sustainability of these mobilizations and the capacity for a broad coalition of movements to effectively converge to drive change in response to emerging challenges or evolving situations. After several decades of people organizing together, it is natural for difficulties to arise, threatening to undermine the unity and collective objectives of these movements. Burnout, ideological and political differences, lack of reflection and discussion, disillusionment, intergenerational disconnects, and a scarcity of resources are just a few of the crises that may fracture the solidarity and shared pursuit of a just society.

Recognizing the need to address this concern, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) convened a roundtable meeting of social movements on February 20, 2024. The gathering featured 20 participants from diverse social movements, labour unions and community groups across Lagos and Nigeria.

While the primary objective of the roundtable was to facilitate dialogue on strengthening cohesion within the network of movements, it also served as a platform to critically examine pressing national issues and strategize collective action against the government’s adoption and implementation of neo-liberal policies, such as the contentious fuel subsidy removal.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, during his opening remarks, lamented the unholy alliance between the Nigerian government and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He decried that the Nigerian government’s propagation of policies handed down by these institutions is fueling the increasing privatization of basic services such as water, electricity, and education, as well as a decline in living standards. On this note, he emphasized the need for social movements and campaigners in-country to bridge ranks and solidarize to reverse the negative economic and social trends observed.

During an open and free-flowing discussion, Betty Abbah, the Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) urged campaigners and movements in the room to ensure interventions are grounded in immediate realities to draw the attention of people and force changes in the political system.

Dagga Tolla of the Movement for Socialist Alternative (MSA) further reflected on the task cut out for participants to build the consciousness of the people to correctly articulate their concerns around governance and coalesce for mass struggle. “We need a common minimum programme that can unite all of us,” he said.

The biting economic realities in the country are also spurring fears of a breakdown in society. Hassan Soweto, the National coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), expressed this sentiment in his submission at the meeting, which noted that the country is on the edge. Blaming this on the government’s neoliberal policies, he opined that the removal of fuel subsidy has culminated in an unprecedented hike in petrol pump prices, transportation, and food costs in the country, with a recent IMF report suggesting that inflation rate may go as high as 44% in the coming period.

While he pointed out the danger of the depressing situation, he also cautioned against the increasing tendency of movements to work in silos and attempts by mischievous political elements to co-opt radical and pro-social justice individuals into foot soldiers.

“We need to draw up the commonality of our struggles and cultivate a culture of solidarity,” he concluded.

Funmi Idowu, a community activist, and Mary George Peluola, a senior programme officer at Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) emphasized the importance of seeking out the participation of women in the collective struggle for a better society. They also noted the unique and instrumental role women and young people play in injecting power into critical campaigns. 

Other issues discussed at the meeting addressed problems of mistrust among social movements, the importance of creating spaces for experience-sharing among old and new campaigners.

Participants also deliberated the failure of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to provide an effective programme of intervention to address the economic crises bedeviling the country. In recent times, the country’s labour union has repeatedly fallen short in providing leadership and direction for public participation in governance or even sustaining a mass campaign for social change. This challenge, according to participants, necessitates commitment from social movements seeking genuine change in society to stand in the gap to mobilize citizenry for collective action.

Further clarifying this line of deliberation, Achike Chude of the Joint Action Front (JAF) underscored the role of movements present at the meeting in building a nationwide coalition to aggregate the yearnings of citizens for positive change and development in society.

The meeting concluded with a consensus to collaborate closely, leverage social media for wider engagement, and focus on empowering collective actions for social justice. Key resolutions include:

  • Holding regular meetings to foster solidarity in dialogue and strategy.
  • Building consciousness among Nigerians, including workers nationwide, to advocate effectively for their rights.
  • Harnessing the diverse strengths and contributions of various social movements to strengthen collective efforts.
  • Revitalizing the student movement in Nigeria.
  • Participating in the upcoming Nigerian Labour Congress protests on February 27th and 28th, 2024, to address the rising hunger and economic hardship in the country.
  • Organizing a collective action on February 26th, 2024, to set the stage for the NLC protests.

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