Forward back in time. And that news report was of one of the more intellectually exciting of that gang. And his metamorphosis but a metaphor for the journey most of me fellow travellers have completed over the last thirty years. From passionate “comrade” to vicious “come raid” proponents, nearly all have emerged from the stultifying chrysalis of Marxist-Leninist praxis.


“Following months of investigation on allegations of corruption”, thus, the online report went, this government honcho “has been suspended from office with immediate effect”. Not surprising, really. “Allegations of corruption” invariably dog top government functionaries in these parts. And “suspensions” are nearly always with “immediate effect”. But this specific incident extended a train ride back in time. Three-decades-plus back, in fact.

The locations were not always the same. But a few did feature regularly. The National Union of Journalists’ Press Centre just across from the government house, on Ahmadu Bello Way (I am not sure it is still there). The Nigerian Herald newspaper’s newsroom on Offa Road (a ghost place that became after a while). In the 1980s, Ilorin was a ferment of thought. The finer parts of Georgi Plekhanov’s Monist View of History was as likely to invite a huddle, as was Antonio Gramsci’s ponderous conversations around the organisation of the communist party in Italy. The Bretton Woods system’s insistence, around that time, that Nigeria was spending far more on tertiary education than the needs of the economy required; and that the balance of evidence as to the right path to both growth and development went through better funded primary and secondary schools was, so obviously, scandalous.

Almost to the last individual, these conclaves renounced markets as part of the solution. There were niggling doubts over how to interpret Lenin’s insistence that when and where society’s productive forces were not developed enough to extract from each according to his ability and to deliver to each according to his need, “trade” was to be the arbiter. But measured against the local constraints that set off these debates, even this was peripheral. Besides, the challenges that the New Economic Policy addressed in post-civil war Russia, were unique both to the Soviet State and time.

Looking back, now, there are those wags who contend that much of our dalliance with left-wing communism was, indeed, then, an infantile disorder. Providing concealment for young men from very modest backgrounds for the many inadequacies they struggled with. It was class war, still.


A revolution that seized the commanding heights of the economy, democratising access to, ownership and use of the means of production was held up as the only answer to the ills that plagued the country. And on these latter, we were agreed. There was consensus around other notions, too. To the extent that a society’s form of economic organisation feeds into its forms of expression, we only needed to restructure the way the Nigerian state was arranged to put paid to all the ills that afflicted it. Inept management of private and public spaces? Squander-mania and kleptomania in high places? Extremes of poverty and affluence? Simply socialise the means of production.

We were young then. And irrespective of whom you attribute the quote to, we were well within the sentiments included in the argument that, “If you are not a socialist at 25, then your heart is in the wrong place; and If you are not a capitalist at 35 your head is in the wrong place.” Looking back, now, there are those wags who contend that much of our dalliance with left-wing communism was, indeed, then, an infantile disorder. Providing concealment for young men from very modest backgrounds for the many inadequacies they struggled with. It was class war, still. And dialectical materialism was the weapon of mass destruction with which this cohort laid low its social superiors.

…the transfiguration looped in on itself, with our would-be revolutionaries embracing with gusto the ills against which they raged so violently in their youth. What was the damascene trigger? Money, apparently. The neediness of growing up clearly did not prepare us for the allure of ill-gotten lucre.


Forward back in time. And that news report was of one of the more intellectually exciting of that gang. And his metamorphosis but a metaphor for the journey most of me fellow travellers have completed over the last thirty years. From passionate “comrade” to vicious “come raid” proponents, nearly all have emerged from the stultifying chrysalis of Marxist-Leninist praxis. Coruscating the emergent butterfly is. But not in its ability to competently organise the means of production. In this sense, we did not complete the transition from socialist to capitalist thinking that the accretion of age and deeper reflecting is supposed to bring with it.

No! Instead, the transfiguration looped in on itself, with our would-be revolutionaries embracing with gusto the ills against which they raged so violently in their youth. What was the damascene trigger? Money, apparently. The neediness of growing up clearly did not prepare us for the allure of ill-gotten lucre. Especially when much of yesterday’s ideological posturing was all about concealing this want in the first place.

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.