On Tuesday this week, Chido Onumah, Coordinator of the Abuja-based African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, posted an obituary for Professor Eskor Toyo, one of the most distinguished Marxist scholars that Africa has ever produced. Comrade Eskor Toyo died on Monday, December 7, 2015 at the age of 86.
His death has triggered a genuine outpouring of tributes from all over Nigeria, for a most committed intellectual and first class polemicist, who spent his very productive lifetime as an intrepid protagonist of the working people and the poor in our country, Africa and the world working class movement.
Many of the tributes I have read came from people who never had a direct personal contact with Eskor Toyo, but were indirectly affected by his prodigious intellectual output and his genuine commitment to the very best interests of our country. Comrade Eskor Toyo lived an intensely engaged life of the revolutionary intellectual and his life, from the obituary posted by Onumah, had been one of a brilliant academic background too.
He had passed the Cambridge School Certificate in Grade One in 1945 and was therefore exempted from London University matriculation.
He was also to pass the Higher School Certificate (Cambridge); earned a Diploma in Public Administration and B. Sc. In Economics from the University of London; a First Class in Postgraduate Diploma in National Economic Planning; Masters and Doctorate (Cum Laude) in Economics.
For the generation of Nigerian Marxists and working class activists of the 1970s and the 1980s, Comrade Eskor Toyo was certainly one of the leading cadres that we learned from.
The incredible hallmark of those decades, was how a genuinely pan-Nigerian movement dedicated to a revolutionary transformation of our country had been constructed, yet there was also an underlining tragedy of fractiousness of that movement. The petty bourgeois intellectual and activist can be a major contributor to historically significant processes of struggle, but was never able to construct the organisational platform to carry out revolutionary transformation of society.
At least that was what the Nigerian example taught and when the world socialist system collapsed; it did not take long for the Nigerian detachment to atrophy and individual cadres moved on, with many becoming civil society activists who ironically became dependent on the dollars which came from imperialism. Comrade Eskor Toyo was one of the last men standing in the trenches of the struggle for the socialist transformation of Nigeria.
It was a commitment that he never abandoned, despite the despair and the reactionary ambience associated with imperialism’s triumph in the ideological struggle with socialism. I do hope younger generations of Nigerians, who make up the overwhelming segment of our country’s population today, will learn the lessons of rigorous intellectual development, principled commitment to his cause and a remarkable staying power. You might not accept socialism, but those qualities are very essential to building a truly modern country.