Communism is an ideology based on the precept of “common ownership” most popularly believed to have originated from the Greek philosopher, Plato’s 380BC piece, “The Republic” in which he described a state where people shared all their property, wives, and children. With the 1917 October revolution in Russia that brought the first communist organization to power came the dream for uniting all workers of the world in a proletariat dictatorship. Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II thrusted upon it the status of a world power and placed it in opposition to another power, the capitalist America. Many other countries aligned with either.
The Nigeria Union of Students founded by Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1940 apparently got a share of its inspiration from Lenin’s Russia, citing in a August 28 piece in the West African Pilot, the example of Leningrad and the revolutionary effort of “emancipated Russia”. Although many Nigeria’s post-independence first generation leaders flirted with communist ideas, communism never became an important tenet in the country. There were however, important political figures who took their leanings more seriously. During the Cold War, Oludotun’s wife, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti travelled widely owing to her status as the world vice-president of the Women’s International Democratic Federation, angering the Nigerian as well as British and American governments by establishing contacts within the Eastern Bloc during visits to the USSR, Hungary and China (where she met Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China). In 1956, her passport was not renewed, as it was feared that she could influence other women with her communist ideas and policies. She was also refused a US visa by the American government on the same grounds.
The natural inclination of every serious political organization in Nigeria prior to her independence was to let the country remain within the Commonwealth of Nations and to be friendly to the United States. It was not clear what to be done with the Eastern bloc of communist nations. At independence, when the need for the formation of proper embassies arose, the Nigerian government bought time by prioritizing the permission grant of commonwealth member nations over others’. This indecision will finally give way before the end of 1960 when the government agreed to exchange missions with Russia. The Nigerian mind was steep in the social reality in which it was trained and for the conservatism of the elite, who considered themselves quite privileged, the experimentation of communism was no option. The colonial economy forced people to work for cash, commandeered labor on regular basis, and modified all traditional economic roles, to meet the needs of increased cash cropping, decreased food production, and expansion in the import-export trade. Owing to the elite’s conservatism, anti-communist tendency was inherent in Nigeria. Even pioneer Soviet trained Lawyers were demanded to pass through special rounds of further training before they could be admitted into the Nigerian Law School.
There was a peculiar development in the Atlantic Coast of the Nigerian Western region when in 1947 a group of persecuted Cherubim and Seraphim priests retreated to the creeks to form a town, Aiyetoro. In this “happy” town communism was fully practiced, and as attested by the Israeli diplomatic mission, Aiyetoro was prosperous and progressed far above other settlements in its area. Decline began in 1968 with members beginning to receive financial recompense for their work. By 1970, a wage system had been introduced and private enterprise received permissions.