Naija Marxisms: Revolutionary Thought in Nigeria, London: Pluto Press, 2016; 241 pp.: ISBN 9780745336572, 18.99 [pounds sterling]
This book started life as a doctoral dissertation for Budapest University (Eotvos Lorand), as can be seen in its style, presentation and layout. It has, however, been given a snappy title 'Naija [i.e. Nigerian] Marxisms'. It is quite readable, as it is livened up by the author's observations on life in Nigeria today, which he gained while teaching for 3 years at the American University in Yola, in the Northeast of the country. It must have been tough-researching and writing a PhD-against a backdrop of suicide bombings, congregation shootings, electricity blackouts, cholera and curfews. The author's definition of Marxism (p. 18) is 'wide and inclusive'. Some would challenge the bringing together of pro-Soviet and 'Trotskyite' thinkers under one rubric. Mayer does not discuss what authentic Marxism may be in an African context. This is important because Africa has produced parties which called themselves 'revolutionary' (Sierra Leone), quirky regimes claiming 'African Socialism' (Ghana)--and a variety of nasty dictatorships with the label 'Marxist-Leninist' (Benin, Ethiopia). The book would have been made more interesting by including younger writers, including green, environmental and Chibok women's activists.
The core of the thesis lies in chapters 5--7, which are thumbnail sketches of Leftist Nigerian intellectuals, political economists and Marxian feminists. We are introduced to the lives and thinking of some 16 activists--Bene and Edwin Madunagu (Edwin still writes for the Nigerian Guardian), Bade Onimode, Ikenna Nzimiro, Eskor Toyo, Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti who was killed in a raid by the Nigerian army (Afrobeat star Fela's mother), among others. The political scientist Claude Ake (who died in a plane crash near Lagos) is not discussed at length. It is good that Mayer's book has brought the attention of a non-Nigerian reading public to these people; some of whom are now deceased, who often had to go into hiding, and were both bribed and tortured by the military regimes.
One theme running through Mayer's book is the difficulty in obtaining the works of the above writers. An author search was made on the online catalogues of UK libraries and archives as follows: Marxists Internet Archive, Marx Memorial Library, Birmingham University Library (CWAS), SOAS and the British Library. Without going into...