Posted by By Josef Omorotionmwan on
When, in the summer of 1975, President Gerald Ford of the United States of America asked one of that country’s principal Municipalities, New York to drop dead, little did he realize that the consequences of a careless talk were going to be so dire.
When, in the summer of 1975, President Gerald Ford of the United States of America asked one of that country’s principal Municipalities, New York to drop dead, little did he realize that the consequences of a careless talk were going to be so dire. The relationship between Washington and New York became immediately sour and that careless utterance cost Ford his re-election, among other things.
That’s why they say, “God made man, man made money and money made man mad”. Ford was on a state visit to New York when he was presented with a request for federal lifeline in funds to bail the Big Apple out of a very desperate financial situation. That was when he pronounced the death sentence on the Municipality.
In the summer of 2005, our own President is behaving the same way to a very crucial segment of the Nigerian society – the South-South Region. Our delegates started that National Political Reform Conference with other delegates in February 2005. Towards the end of that Conference, the South-South delegates had been pushed out and to our President, that did not mean a thing.
Just imagine when it was time to send off the delegates at a farewell dinner, the South-South delegates were stoically absent. There was nothing wrong up to that point. In my part of the country, we have this fowl with scattered feathers. Its major characteristic is that once it finds one of its chicks, it cares less about what happens to the other chicks. It was most surprising that the President did not make the slightest reference to the absence of the entire delegates from where the money for the very dinner was derived.
We saw the President and the Conference Chairman, Justice Niki Tobi struggling to declare the Conference a huge success. They were really answering a question that was not asked. But now that they have promoted that question to that high level of national discourse, people will inevitably partake in the new debate. How successful could a Conference which started in one piece but ended up in several pieces be?
How successful was a Conference, which could not resolve simple issues of federalism? Are they aware that many unresolved issues have started emerging as a result of that Conference? As an instance, while the farewell dinner was going on, the Biafran currency was circulating freely as legal tender, not only in Nigeria but also in some other African countries. Again, just about when the clinging of glasses was going on in Aso Rock Villa, the Bar Beach was bursting its banks and gradually developing into a Tsunami of sorts while Lagos and Abuja are still slogging it out as to who owns the Bar Beach. Governor Tinubu has boxed the Federal authorities to a tight corner, as he is unable to gain possession of Bar Beach because of its coastal waters. Meanwhile, he looks up North and finds that his Kebbi State counterpart, Governor Alero is raking in tons of Naira annually as revenue from the Arugungu Fishing festival. Fair is fair. What is good for Kebbi is also good for Lagos.
What is so successful about a Conference that was faced with two issues, which they could not resolve – Derivation principle and the tenure of the President and the Governors? History tells us that the 1978 and 1989 Conferences were deadlocked only on one issue – the Sharia, while the 1995 Conference had no unresolved issue. Let’s look briefly at the two unresolved issues of the Obasanjo Confab.
On the question of tenure, the situation remains clumsy. Instead of establishing the framework for the writing of a law, the Conference was expected to write some people into the framework. You can’t hide an idea for too long. In the months ahead, we are going to hear more about the self-succession bid. As it ferments, its simmering effects will become more obvious.
Why blame the South-South delegates? When oppression and inequity reach a point where the victims can no longer tolerate the continuation of the status quo, their reaction will not be postponed until some acceptable rationale or principle is evolved to justify the means employed to terminate the status quo. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the South-South delegates, convinced that their rendezvous with destiny is not subject to further postponements, lost patience with what appeared to them as begging the question on the part of the rest of Nigeria regarding their demand for an enhanced derivation policy. They stormed out of the Conference and shunned all invitations to Aso Rock for a meal of “tuwo shinkafa”. After all what does tuwo shinkafa mean to a man who has had a full meal of starch and banga soup with bush meat and fresh fish to match?
We should constantly realize that even ignoring compensation for past wrongs, preferential treatment by law is justifiable where it serves to achieve an end deemed beneficial to the community. Our entire system is based on the premise that preferential treatment may properly be granted to industries whose development is considered advantageous to the community as a whole. Can it be said that the Nigerian community does not have a strong interest in achieving a system of development of the Niger Delta region – the very area that produces the wealth of the nation?
Actually, tokenism is out of the question. Equity cannot be achieved by changing from malignant to benign allocations. It is like thinking that sobriety can be achieved by changing from whisky to brandy. The only way to obtain sobriety is to stop drinking and the only way to obtain justice is to end injustice. We have said often enough that our God knew the type of difficult terrain he was giving to the Niger Delta Region, hence he cleverly deposited underneath, the resources to develop the difficult terrain. Enough of this bare faced plundering.
If we had no history of ecological degradation resulting from exploration activities, equal allocation to all States would have been in order. Were the terrains in the entire country equally level, no one would have been talking of any enhanced allocation to any zone. But we are all aware that exploration activities destroy all forms of aquatic life and bring farming for all forms of crops to naught now and forever; we are all aware that because of the difficult terrain in the Niger Delta Region, it takes ten times the development efforts in those areas to be ten percent as productive as in other areas of the country.
Enhanced allocation is simply recognition of these realities and an effort to achieve the goal of equity in the world of these realities. To ignore them would amount to a strict enforcement of the rules of a race equally against both runners but only after one runner has reached the halfway mark while the other is still forcibly held back at the starting line. Tragically, the evils of unjust ages live after them.
The northern elites who are asking of what the Niger Delta Region has done with the current 13 percent derivation to it cannot be insinuating that people from this region are corrupt just because they are from the region. Again, where were these Northern elites when Prof Jerry Gana, a Northerner, took journalists on an assessment tour of the entire country and Governor Peter Odili of the Delta Region extraction was adjudged the best performing Governor? I am not a good replacement for the auditors of the federation account. All I know is that power is given to men that they may use it but where one man misuses that power, are we going to refrain from granting powers to all men? Of course, NO.
• Hon Omorotionmwan is a public affairs analyst, based in Benin-City
These terms and conditions contain rules about posting comments. By submitting a comment, you are declaring that you agree with these rules:
Failure to comply with these rules may result in being banned from further commenting.
These terms and conditions are subject to change at any time and without notice.