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Never! South-South can’t trade 2007 Presidency for resource control – Horsfall

Posted by By Usoro Usoro on 2005/06/18 | Views: 445 |

Never! South-South can’t trade 2007 Presidency for resource control – Horsfall


One of the leading delegates to the National Conference from the South-south zone, Chief Albert Horsfall, says they would never trade their quest for 2007 Presidency for resource control.

One of the leading delegates to the National Conference from the South-south zone, Chief Albert Horsfall, says they would never trade their quest for 2007 Presidency for resource control.

“Never! Rather we must insist on the two which are distinct, yet tied together. Both are based on our fundamental rights as Nigerian citizens but the issue of Resource Control happens to be the correct interpretation for true and fiscal federalism which all of us, I mean the delegates from all parts of the country are all asking for. The other issue presidency for 2007 is also part of our right as Nigerian citizens but is further anchored on justice, equity and fairness. The major issues which we have canvassed at this Conference are all realistic and in the overall national interest. In particular we emphasize the issues of environmental safeguard, Resource Control, South-South President in 2007, etc. We assure all concerned that these issues are simply complementary, not separable. They are tied together. It is not a question of one or the other!”

The whole hog
Horsfall, the leader of the Rivers State delegation, told Saturday Sun in Lagos that they were ready to go the whole hog to achieve the objectives of the zone on both resource control and 2007 Presidency. He said of all the zones, only South-south has not produced a president in Nigeria’s 45-year-old history.
“As you know, when we first got there in February, 2005, the matter of resource control was laughed at by some delegates from other parts of the country. We were not taken seriously. In the first two or three weeks, all sorts of tactics were used to try to get us out of the idea of resource control. The opponents were sarcastic, they tried to ridicule us and intimidate us. None of this affected us from the south south. They, then tried to penetrate our ranks. They tried to divide us into segments of different states some of whom they claimed to favour and others they gave the impression that they were not friendly with. Those tactics also did not work. We stood firm. Our solidarity surprised them, then scared some of them. By the end of the Committees’ work, following which we had made quite some progress, we noticed that there was what the French will call “panik” in some of their ranks. We noticed a flurry of movement and of meetings. But we were prepared for all of these. And our ranks could not be broken. But, rather surprisingly, some of the friends on whom we had placed so much hope began to play discordant tones. We anticipated some of such developments. Because this is Nigeria, and in our politics, anything can happen. So we were prepared for the worst, while expecting the best.

Compromise
Still, he said they were ready to make concessions but not below the fifty percent mark on resource control. “We have already made some compromise. Our firm position, as you would recall, was total resource control in which we will take 100% control of our resources and pay taxes to the Federal government while we retain 60% overall. We have now, at the latest plenary, due to persuasion from some of our friends and other parties with whom we have been negotiating and discussing, agreed to accept 50%. That is as far as we intend to go. Whatever further negotiation we undertake, must first be based on the principle of full resource control. Once that principle has been accepted, the modalities that would apply to bring it fully about are the issues we would be prepared to discuss further. Remember that we are negotiating for present and future generation of our people. They are still truly poor and deprived. And we owe them a duty to do our utmost to alleviate their situation. Everyone knows that we are truly poor and disadvantaged.

Consider that in 25 years time oil and gas in the Niger Delta would have disappeared. Around the same time it would have emerged in other zones where there are not only forecasts or prospects but clear findings of oil and gas deposits. Will the Country at that time revert to what we are asking for now after our own land had been laid waste from oil and gas exploitation and our people, present and future generations ruined? Like cocoa, groundnuts and palm produce etc. which our founding fathers used to develop universities and other tertiary institutions, free education, sports stadia and other forms of human and physical development. Resource from oil and gas is what we of the South-South will invest for the development of our present and future generations. What otherwise should we have from oil and gas for our descendants? Death and destruction? That we slept, folded our arms when our territories were laid waste due to oil and gas which has developed Nigeria, improved lives and benefited other Nigerians across the country?

Opposition to resource control
This is a democracy and they are entitled to their views and we indeed respect those views. However, we realize also that over the years, a number of states and individuals in various parts of the country have become spoilt by the sharing regime. It is share, share and share that is ringing a bell in everybody’s mind in Nigeria today. No one thinks of contributing to the national purse, it’s only to go there and take your share. With such mentality, Nigerians had forgotten the need for hard work and the need to even resort to the various abundant natural resources which abound all over the country, not to talk of the several other hard currency earning agricultural resources, cocoa, groundnut, palm oil, rubber etc. The one other thing which this conference would have achieved thanks to the demand of the South South for Resource Control is the ‘wake up’ call to all Nigerians, individuals and governments alike, to look beyond sharing the largesse – the national cake from oil and gas alone and consider various other economic prospects which are abundant in this God blessed country. Ironically, the strongest opposition to our demands at this Conference seems to be coming from the particular part of the country, which are usually our best friends. But friends too, can disagree as you have witnessed during this Conference. But now that both sides have seen ourselves in our raw naked form with some very strong reactions, we can now settle down and do a deal. Extremism on either side won’t get us anywhere. What we need is realism and reasonableness on both sides. We do not need sympathy. What we call for is understanding and support for us to secure our God-given right and the correct concomitants of democracy and true federalism.

Rumours of profligacy
Recently, some opponents of resource control accused the South-south governors of mismanaging their state allocations. But Horsfall says that would not deter them in the demand for what is right.
“We hear of profligacy by governments especially at local and state level all over the country. We also hear rumours that 27 states executives are being investigated all over the country. We have six states and therefore six states Executives. Therefore even if all the six are among those being allegedly investigated there are still 21 others who are not from our region. Indeed from information available in the press the only one so far indicted in Nigeria and abroad happens to come from another part of the country. We, as a people and as a zone are very firm on the need for probity among public officials and on accountability. That is why at the same time that we ask for increase in revenue and devolution of power we would request for arrangements and mechanisms for the correct and proper utilization and accountability etc. of these resources. Therefore let no one question our integrity over the use of these resources! We are not merely asking for increased resources and devolution of political power to the states. We are also asking for proper arrangements to be put in place for effective utilization of these resources, and powers, and for proper accountability. We would insist that the resources are actually used to improve our physical environment in terms of infrastructure, such as roads, communication, energy, health, educational facilities, environmental regeneration etc. and for the Human Development of our people including those in the remotest rural areas. Human development is an essential component of our development objective in order that our own people would join other Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike in the use and enjoyment of the envisaged improved facilities. We are already carefully studying the Chadian experience where the world Bank helped them to produce a solid plan to ensure and assure that specific percentages of the oil revenue goes into specific items of human and infrastructural/physical development covering various facets of economic and physical development which stretches to the remotest villager and hamlet!

Chances of South-south in 2007 Presidency
“Very good” was the way he described the chances of the South-south in 2007 Presidency. “We have made a very forceful and clear case. Indeed that it is the only one zone that can rightfully be considered for the office of presidency come 2007. Some have argued that the position had already been promised to a particular geographical area by a political party. We do not agree. Whereas, any political party has the right to make internal arrangement within the party for zoning of any offices in the manner of their choosing, but whatever such political party does are subject to the overall national interest which will override a political party’s interest. This confab represents the overall national interest and is superior to the interest of any single political party or groups of parties”.

It is important to recognize that economically, strategically and on the basis of sacrifice and service to this country, the South-South zone continues to make enormous contributions to the national efforts by the day and has done so for several decades.
On the economic front one needs to only look at the revenue figures from the Finance Ministry for April to illustrate the point. It confirmed that the proceeds from oil and gas in that month was N288 billion. Compare this to the revenue from all other sources, which amounted to N26 billion for the same period, and you will appreciate the contribution of the Niger Delta to the national economy. Strategically, that the South-South zone remains the under-belly of this Country cannot be gain said. No one can now question the fact that we have in the South South, eminently qualified, competent, capable and experienced men and women for the job of Chief Executive Officers of the Nigerian state. So why should we be denied it when our over all contributions to the nation justifies our claims? I therefore ask these straightforward questions. Is it logical, fair, just and equitable:

For a zone which has held national executive power for a combined period of 23 years to aspire to it once again and for the South-South which had never held the office for even one day to be excluded in 2007?
For this conference and the country not to accept a programme of environmental regeneration and economic/political empowerment of the Niger Delta which has sacrificed so much to keep the country alive economically since the civil war?
For this Conference and the country not to agree the resource redistribution arrangement called for by the South-South at this conference for its survival in view of the sacrifices which the region had made for Nigeria’s economic survival in times of the country’s need?

South-south/middle belt alliance
There are very bright prospects for building a formidable political power bloc from the alliance. But the process is still developing and both parties will have to work very had to ensure and assure the great dividends and potential which will flow from the alliance. Lets give it time to develop. And pray for genuine understanding and sincerity of purpose on all sides for the dream to bear fruit.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.