Obituary of Nigerian anarchist Sam Mbah

wpid-photo-13082012-557-pmZabalaza Anarchist Communist Front is deeply saddened to hear of the death a great human being, African brother, and fellow activist – Sam Mbah. We would like to send our deepest sympathies to those who knew Sam. We hope that you are comforted by the fact that the time he did spend with us was put to its absolute fullest use.

It is particularly difficult for us in South Africa to hear of this news because we are likewise struggling to build a movement that, as Sam has always acknowledged, is still in its infancy and will take some time to “crystallize”. Knowing that people like Sam were out there in other parts of Africa doing what we are trying to do here was a great inspiration to us. It helped us to continue on a long and difficult path. Sam’s individual contribution to our own (and collective) project of building a strong and viable anarchist movement in Africa was massive, and his departure will be sorely felt. But we feel comforted in the fact that his legacy will be an inspiration for others who will eventually follow in his footsteps.

Sam wasn’t only a dedicated and sensitive activist but also a brilliant scholar and thinker. He epitomized what is best in historical anarchist work. His words were always rooted in careful, considered analysis, and always took class (exploitation and oppression) seriously. His views about religious and superstitious conservatism in Nigeria always sought answers in deeper social phenomenon. For example, the fact that “social differences have been magnified by politicians, who use it to manipulate and control the mass of the population” was not lost on him. On environmental degradation too, Sam was a voice of reason. He worked hard to make sure that oil companies in the Niger Delta did not get away with their involvement in causing the changes in climate that have destroyed the livelihoods of so many of its inhabitants.

Sam’s legacy will not only be that of a dedicated and sensitive activist, but this he surely was. Sam’s role in establishing the Nigerian, anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League – at the height of military rule, was tremendous; for this he should be credited with no less than helping establish the roots of anarchism in Africa. Despite his obvious disappointment with the League’s fate, which collapsed with the coming of civilian democracy (Sam called it “an extension of military rule), his continued perseverance to building the basis for a vibrant anarchist movement in Nigeria was encouraging. Like the best of activists, rather than blaming its dissolution on outside forces, Sam was sensitive to the movement’s internal weakness and his own mistakes that lead to this unfortunate outcome, acknowledging that “we did not analyze in a serious sense what would be the consequences of the end of military rule and the coming of civilian rule, in the place of the military. We took it for granted that it would be business as usual”.

Sam, brother, we will miss you.