Interviewer: For those of us who haven’t read your book African Anarchism recently, can you just recap a couple of things about what anarchism means to you and how is it connected to some of the intrinsic aspects of African culture?

Sam: OK, I pointed out in the book right away that anarchism as an ideology, as a corpus of ideology, and as a social movement, is removed to Africa. That was a point I made very explicitly at the outset of the book. But anarchism as a form of social organization, as a basis of organizing societies – that is not remote to us. It is an integral part of our existence as a people. I referred to the communal system of social organization that existed and still exists in different parts of Africa, where people live their lives within communities and saw themselves as integral parts of communities, and which contributed immensely to the survival of their communities as a unit. I pointed to aspects of solidarity, aspects of social cohesion and harmony that existed in so many communal societies in Africa and tried to draw linkages with the precepts of anarchism, including mutual aid, including autonomous development of small units, and a system that is not based on a monetization of the means and forces of production in society.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: In the last few years we’ve definitely seen an increase in authoritarian rule in many parts of the world, and austerity measures, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the States and the global financial crisis, more recently. How do you see those issues, and how have they affected Africa, and the struggle here?

Sam: When I wrote African Anarchism with my friend, we wrote against the backdrop of three decades of military rule, nearly four decades of military rule, in Nigeria. Military rule was a form of government that believed in over-centralization of powers, and dictatorship, as it were, and it was a strand that evolved from capitalism. So while the Nigerian society and much of Africa was under the grip of military rule and military authoritarianism, today we have a nominal civilian administration, a nominal civilian democracy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: Sam, climate change is a major threat to Nigerians, as it is to everyone else on the planet. What are some of the specific environmental issues here, and what sort of consciousness is there of climate justice, and sustainable development?

Sam: I’ll answer your question from two perspectives. Let me answer it with the general perspective and then I’ll come to the more personal perspective. The threat of climate change is real. We, in this part of the world, are not immune from the threats of climate change. If we take a look around us, the humidity levels are rising. In recent times, where I live (I live in a small bungalow of three rooms), if there is no light [no electricity, no fan], I can hardly sleep.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: Sam, you played a very important role in the ‘Awareness League’, which was a Nigerian anarchist organization that flourished in the 1990s. Can you tell us a bit about how it grew and how it declined?

Sam: It’s a little nostalgic for me these days, talking about the Awareness League, because the Awareness League was a romantic idea. When we entered the universities in the early 80s, what we encountered was socialist groups, socialist teaching, Marxist teaching especially. And we became attracted to Marxism, in the sense that it preached the coming of a new dawn in society, and by extension, the African continent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: What about working-class organizations in Nigeria, trade unions, to what extent can they be reclaimed as vehicles for working-class struggle?

Sam: The trade unions in Nigeria were particularly very active in the early anti-colonial struggle. I told you some time ago about the struggles of the coal miners here in Enugu, Enugu was the coal mining capital of Nigeria. During the anti-colonial struggle for independence, the colonial masters killed about 49 coal miners here in this city, who were struggling against the exploitative tendencies of the managers of the mines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: Sam, how do you conceptualize global solidarity? I mean, how best can activists in so-called ‘developed’ countries support activists in the majority world, and vice versa?

Sam: Yeah, the activism in the developed world can do a lot really to stir up the consciousness of people here. But I guess that at the end of the day, the people here must take responsibility for our lives, must take responsibility for resisting autocratic governments, must take responsibility for seeking to hold them accountable as well.

People in the metropolitan world can assist us by trying to help us build capacity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: Nigeria is quite a religious society. Religion is very deeply ingrained here. And often it takes quite conservative, sometimes violent forms. What are your thoughts on religion in Nigeria and what it means for anarchism and organising more broadly?

Sam: I’ll say that religion and religious practices have entered a new phase in Nigeria. Before the advent of colonialism, our people were mostly African religionists, who worship our small gods – gods of thunder, gods of river, and such other gods. With the coming of colonialism, the two main global religions – Islam and Christianity – became a predominant force in the lives of Nigerians.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interviewer: What about gender? Is there a change in the struggle for women’s liberation?

Sam: The struggle for women’s liberation in Nigeria and the rest of Africa has come a long way.

Read the rest of this entry »

[This is a full transcript of an interview with Sam, recorded in March 2012 in Enugu Nigeria. Excerpts by subject area are also published in this blog. You can also listen to or download the audio files in the Audio section of this blog. The interviewer, Jeremy, is a member of the Jura Books Collective – an anarchist collective based in Sydney Australia.]

Read the rest of this entry »

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Sam Mbah has died. He died on November 6 2014, of complications arising from his heart condition. His recovery had appeared to be going well, but then a crisis arose and he was rushed to hospital. He died a short time later.

I am very upset to hear of Sam’s death. He was a great human and comrade. I only knew him for a few years, but he made a big impression on me. He was kind and thoughtful, and had a brilliant mind. The world is worse without him. Many, many comrades and activists around the globe will be saddened to hear of this loss. Our thoughts are with Sam’s family and friends. We send our sympathy and condolences.

– Jeremy, blog administrator

In response to a request from Sam, Jura Books in Australia coordinated a fundraising appeal to assist Sam with the heart operation he has needed for some time. Together, the global anarchist community successfully raised over US$3,500 for Sam, which Jura transferred to him via international bank transfer.

Sam made the trip to India in order to undergo the medical procedure, and returned to Nigeria to recover. The procedure seems to have gone well and Sam is recovering, although slowly.

Sam has asked to pass on his thanks and best wishes to all comrades who contributed to the fundraising appeal.

Sam writes…

At the start of the appeal:
“I continue to lose weight and experience general body weakness as a consequence of my heart condition. In the past three months, I have been working  to raise funds from friends and family, to be able to undertake a trip to India where I am billed to undergo heart surgery to replace the defective valves. So far, I have been able to raise US$15,000 out of the US$25,000 required for the trip, expected at the beginning of July this year. The amount covers my medical expenses as well as the round trip. I am still working to raise the outstanding balance and I wish to appeal to you and fellow comrades to assist me in raising part of it. No amount will be too big or too small. My appreciation goes to all our comrades around the world. Thank you all.”

Half way through the fundraising appeal, just before he went to get the operation:
“My morale is boosted by the realisation that there are comrades and friends in distant places who are willing to contribute to arresting the situation before it deteriorates further. My family and I are gratified indeed.”

After returning from the operation:
“So glad to be able to get in touch with you again. I have been back to Nigeria since 15th August after spending four weeks plus in Mumbai India. Since my return, I can say thus far from the position of a medical layman that the  procedure is holding, although at a very high cost indeed. But you must understand that the road to my full recovery is bound to be a slow and painful process. Kindly bring this to the attention of our friends and comrades who would otherwise want to enter into active correspondence with me. I hope to be fit enough by the end of September and then I can maintain regular communication with friends and comrades. Thank you so much.”

Thanks and congratulations to all donors

Special thanks to Jura Books for coordinating the fundraising appeal, to AK Press for publicising the appeal, and to See Sharp Press for their effort in bringing Sam’s book royalties forward and continuing to negotiate publishing projects on his behalf. Also to Brisbane Solidarity Network, and the many other groups and individuals around the world who donated to assist Sam. (Amounts below are in US$ and in some cases have been slightly reduced by Paypal fees):

  • Australia: Jura Books ($349), Brisbane Solidarity Network ($322), CP ($460), JK ($110), WT ($110), MV ($90), BL ($92), JK ($90), RS ($46), NA ($37), TOC ($22), SC ($22), PS ($9).
  • Austria: SB ($44).
  • Brazil: BPA ($13).
  • Canada: JB ($89), MT ($22), KPB ($4).
  • Germany: SB ($17), TM ($11).
  • New Zealand Aotearoa: KM ($44).
  • Poland: TB ($44).
  • Sweden: MN ($13)
  • UK: AD ($162), UG ($89), ST ($26), GC ($17), AS ($9).
  • USA: See Sharp Press ($575), JK ($145), AK ($100), JJ ($96), Workers Solidarity Alliance ($72), BC ($52), EH ($50), AG ($50), LA ($34), MK ($24), SD ($24), AA ($19), LW ($19), MM ($19), ZZH ($10), JM ($9), JM ($5).

– Blog administrator

Sam’s health has been deteriorating due to a heart condition. He needs an operation on his heart and is seeking to raise the US$12,000 required for the operation.

Jura Books in Australia is helping Sam to fundraise. Please make a donation now – any amount would be appreciated. You can donate from anywhere in the world via the Jura paypal, or by direct transfer into the Jura bank account if you are in Australia. Please include the reference ‘Sam Mbah’ and email jura[at] to let them know you’ve made the donation. All funds will be sent to Sam in one transfer.

If you are in Sydney, there will also be a fundraising party with music and food: 6pm, Sat 21 June, at Jura (440 Parramatta Road, Petersham).

If you are able to organise fundraising in another part of the world, please let us know via the contact form on this blog.

– Blog administrator