The Nigerian student chanting a luta continua is thinking of some forces
of oppression in the most fuzzy and abstract terms. He is not thinking
of tribal hatred and religious bigotry – two of the most significant
negativities that Samora Machel and his generation of African freedom
fighters and thinkers defined the struggle against.
I was wet
behind the ears. I was a Jambite. It was matriculation day at the
University of Ilorin. After matriculation on the main campus of the
University, I returned to the mini-campus in the company of new friends –
fellow Jambites. At the entrance gate to campus, we ran to a chaotic
mass of policemen, soldiers, tanks, guns, tear gas.
advanced, retreated, advanced, retreated, screaming, chanting, rallying.
In all the chaos, the protesting students (Nigerian authorities always
demean their struggles by calling them rioting or rampaging students)
had one rallying call which fascinated us as Jambites:
A luta continua
A luta continua
A luta, a luta
A luta continua
it was that on my very first official day of University life, on matric
day, I had to return to Isanlu for two months because the University
was closed down. The two months I spent in Isanlu was not a waste. When
Baba Adesanmi heard me chanting “a luta continua” one day, he asked:
“Bola, who taught you that thing you are saying?”
I told him that
the chant was the energizing spirit of the student protest that had
sent me back to Isanlu. All the senior students were chanting and
screaming “aluta” and all the Jambites joined them. He smiled casually
and took out two books from a shelf in the family library. One was
entitled, Mozambique: Sowing the Seeds of Revolution, authored by a man
called Samora Machel. The other was an edited selection of the speeches
and writings of the same Samora Machel.
I knew enough of African
and world affairs to know that SamoraMachel was the President of
Mozambique who had died in a plane crash in 1986. But I did not know
that he was one of Africa’s greatest sons, one of Africa’s greatest
freedom fighters, one of Africa’s greatest revolutionaries, one of
Africa’s greatest radical theorists, one of Africa’s greatest thinkers.
Machel was thus my entrance into the intellectual force field of
African radical revolutionary thinkers and freedom fighters. Samora
Machel was the path that led me to the writings and work of Frantz
Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane, Steve Biko, Patrice Emery
Lumumba, and Thomas Sankara. Beyond Africa, Samora Machel was the path
that led me to a life time of reading the writings and thought of Dr.
Ernesto CheGuevara, Fidel Castro, Paulo Freire, and Regis Debray but I
am jumping ahead of myself.
A luta continua! Generations of
Nigerian students have chanted it, have been defined by it. Portuguese
for “the struggle continues”, Samora Machel and his FRELIMO freedom
fighters originated that call as their antiphonal call and response
formula for mobilizing and motivating the people of Mozambique in their
historic struggle against the evil Portuguese colonialists.
Machel developed a musical, deeply-textured and sequentially sequenced
way of screaming “a luta” from the podium when delivering his rousing
speeches and the people would respond in unison, “continua”!
Machel’s call to struggle moved across Africa and the rest of the world
to become the rallying call of struggles and protest movements. In
Nigeria, it became part of our national lexicon and the very definition
of the student experience. Of course, we took Samora Machel’s chant out
of context and divorced it from the totality of his meaning. We would
not be true Nigerians if we didn’t do such an anti-intellectual thing.
very few Nigerian students actually know the origins of a luta
continua. I wager that few in the post-1980s generation have even ever
heard of Samora Machel and FRELIMO. Fewer still in the newer generations
would know that Samora Machel never stopped at screaming “a luta
continua” from the podium. When he had worked the people to a frenzy of
excitement with the “a luta continua” call and response, he would
suddenly stop and say:
Against what? In other words, Samora
Machel was not just interested in empty sloganeering. He would ask:
against what precisely must the struggle continue? Samora Machel, the
great educator, knew that because he was leading Mozambique and, by
extension, Africa, against a particular form of oppression, it was easy
for people to understand praxis as an exclusive struggle against
imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism.
As important as the
struggle against colonialism and imperialism was, Machel understood
that it had to go in tandem with and be underwritten by other internal
struggles and dynamics without which the broader struggle was doomed.
Against what must the struggle continue?
Samora Machel would answer his own question to the admiration of his audience:
other words, the most important aspects of what Samora Machel meant by a
luta continua, what he specifically defined the struggle against, have
been left out of its Nigerian appropriation by generations of Nigerian
students. When the Nigerian student – or even he Nigerian – casually
vents, “alutacontinua”, tribal hate and religious bigotry are not even
remotely in his mind for these two demons are the natural constitutive
elements of the Nigerian oxygen.
The Nigerian student chanting
aluta continua is thinking of some forces of oppression in the most
fuzzy and abstract terms. He is not thinking of tribal hatred and
religious bigotry – two of the most significant negativities that Samora
Machel and his generation of African freedom fighters and thinkers
defined the struggle against.
If Samora Machel and other freedom
fighters understood that tribalism, religious bigotry, and superstition
were enemies of progress, enemies of the national project, enemies of
the liberation struggle, they also understood perfectly that these
things were fed by ignorance and illiteracy.
That is why they
invested so much of the struggle in mass education and instruction,
public pedagogy and the reduction of ignorance. On the personal level,
many of them understood that there was no alternative to a lifetime
investment in erudition. They were polymaths with an encyclopedic
knowledge base in philosophy, history, literature, culture, music,
economics, mathematics and the other sciences. They led by example. You
could not mobilize the people against illiteracy and ignorance if you
were not erudition personified.
The tragedy of Nigeria is that
we destroyed the informing spirit of education. Without this informing
spirit of education, Nigeria has been building new Universities,
Polytechnics, and Colleges of Education in a national project of mass
producing and graduating largely ignorant and barely literate armies of
ethnic hate, religious bigotry, and invidious superstitions.
self-destructive demission from the informing spirit of education has
come full circle as social media is now exposing the consequences of our
dereliction of duty: entire generations of graduates whose only
meaningful lifeline is ethnic hate and religious bigotry fed by
ignorance and illiteracy.
Hate for hate’s sake. North, south,
east, west, these armies of hate and bigotry went through the University
screaming “a lutacontinua” without even understanding what the real
owners of that historic liberation chant said that the struggle must be
There is also no understanding of the fact that Samora
Macheland his generation saw personal development – understood as
reading ceaselessly to attain vast erudition – as the principal building
block of aluta.
Hence the many contradictions of our
blighted existence in Nigeria. Boastful public anti-intellectualism – I
don’t read! This essay is too long! – is worn around the neck like an
Olympic gold medal by people screaming “aluta” on social media. People
who live for hate and by hate on the basis of ethnicity and faith also
go about screaming aluta.
Education, real education, remains the
greatest weapon against hate. And this is where my generation still
hasn’t come to terms with its own failures in the Nigerian national
project. We are the ones raising the younger generations who are so
totally defined by hate for hate’s sake. We watch all the purulence on
social media, gnash our teeth, and shake our heads without understanding
that we are responsible to a great extent for this state of affairs.
you are in my generation and your kids are currently undergraduates in
their early 20s or late teens, you fail to understand that the Nigerian
education system in its current condition cannot educate them and enrich
their minds. I have written again and again that the rot and
destruction in our education system is deliberate. The politicians will
never fund educational institutions and make it possible for them to
produce an educated and informed citizenry.
We do not need to
repeat the well-known fact that the rulers of Nigeria are animals. They
are the worst humanoids in the world. The education of your children is
not in their best interest.
If you intend to run Nigeria the
way she has been run by generations of moribund and stupid leaders, the
first thing you do is to mass produce an under-educated citizenry
easily polarized by ethnicity and religion. If your children were
educated and enlightened, where would these leaders find the armies of
hate and division they need for their self-perpetuation? They will
continue to underfund and destroy education for this reason.
you think that your work stops once you find enough money to pay your
millennial’s school fees in the slaughter slabs of the mind we call
Universities in Nigeria. This explains why you have no personal library
at home. How can you be raising kids who are not surrounded by books at
I am not talking of the nonsensical motivational books
that Nigerians invest in. I am talking of a library – that home space
where you make your millennial invest in erudition and personal
development; that home space where you gradually begin to shape his
attitude to knowledge and erudition and let him know that you will not
Whenever a millennial condemns
or grumbles about a long read; whenever they boast about not reading;
whenever they go to social media to brag about their own
anti-intellectualism while writing as if they are texting, I do not see
our collapsed Universities. I see an absent home library. I see the
failure of my own generation to get engaged personally in their
education. I see reading habits not groomed by their parents at home.
nation that cannot produce a critical mass whose attention span can
grasp more than a tweet is doomed. A nation that cannot produce a
critical mass that can read more than a paragraph without grumbling is
Samora Machel screamed aluta continua because he
wanted to free his people from tribalism, religious bigotry, ignorance,
and illiteracy. These are precisely the resources that the leaders of
Nigeria need to be able to continue to run Nigeria the way they run her
so backwardly without consequences. Do you really think you should leave
the education of your children in the exclusively in the hands of such
If you do, your children will continue to scream a luta continua while hating in ignorance.