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VIEWPOINT: Another conspiracy of Nigeria's majority

Posted by by Austine Edeh on 2005/01/09 | Views: 268 |

VIEWPOINT: Another conspiracy of Nigeria's majority


Once again, the North and the West, who pride themselves as majorities in the Nigerian Federation have demonstrated as eloquently as they always do, their greed, selfishness, insensitivity and contempt for the Niger Delta, in fact, all the oil producing areas of the country.

Once again, the North and the West, who pride themselves as majorities in the Nigerian Federation have demonstrated as eloquently as they always do, their greed, selfishness, insensitivity and contempt for the Niger Delta, in fact, all the oil producing areas of the country.

They recently filed a suit challenging the legality of the On-shore/Off-shore dichotomy abrogation law, which grants the oil producing areas a small fraction of the enormous resources the Federal government has been digging from their soil. It beats me hollow; to imagine how these strange-bed fellows who usually mouth their commitment to the oneness of Nigeria could see no incongruity in this suit of bad faith. As usual, in their rush to display their orchestrated disdain for their supposed brothers, they became blind to the outrage and other possible negative consequences of this vile political grandstanding.

I think there is need for our politicians to apply caution and wisdom in every political move they make. This is because the refusal of these strange friends (in the 22 governors' clique) to accept the equity in or justification for the On-shore/ Off-shore law as a worthy token for the sacrifices of those in the oil bearing communities, has very crucial implications not only for the latter, but, also the nation, including, the antagonists themselves. For instance, when you critically examine the sophistry in the name of reasons upon which these antagonists predicate their position, it directly assaults the sense of judgement of our people. They and their cohorts argue that while the then groundnut pyramids of the North and the cocoa boom in Ibadan were direct results of their peoples' effort in planting these crops that on the contrary no one planted the oil where it is found. To that extent, they opine, oil should be equally shared by all the states in the federation. This argument is not only specious, but offend the natural law and order of things, because if it is pursued, then one could even ask Iraq to share their oil with you since they (Iraqis) were not responsible for it being there.

One would like these conspirators to propose how we would also share with them the profound negative effects of oil exploitation such as the oil flaring, the incessant pollutions through oil spillages, and the general terrible impact of environmental degradation; all of which are presently "enjoyed" by the oil producing communities to the exclusion of these agitators. Since they are so good at planting groundnuts and cocoa, they can as well plant oil on their land, why not? Besides, were these people of the North and South West responsible also for planting in their area, the soil quite fertile and salutary for the cultivation of cocoa and groundnuts? It is that same Almighty God who endowed them with such salubrious soil for these crops that equitably provided the oil rich soil for the weak minorities, who, for as long as oil boom lasts, will probably remain the only unifying factor among the very, very different peoples that make up this odd and amorphous assemblage called Nigeria.

If the logic of those who oppose the Abrogation law is further analysed, one would discover that the argument that the oil beneath the earth or sea does not belong to any one implies that to be able to really lay uncontestable claim to it, then those who live around there should decide to stay on their own. The full meaning of this is that the oil-bearing communities, and ipso facto, the Niger Delta should start considering seriously, the idea of secession.

In a simple synopsis, the syllogism runs thus, since what is under the land belongs to all, to claim it, you who own that land should declare a country of your own. You can now see why caution is seriously advocated in place of provocation?

In truth, if the Northern governors and their newly found cohorts in the South west had their way, they would have forcefully transferred the Niger Delta people from their present ancestral lands to theirs and occupy the rich land of the Niger Delta and forever live in affluence. But they are not God and can never be. "Tell me; why do you covet our resources so much?" Did we take away that your heavenly capacity to produce pyramids of groundnuts and mountains of cocoa? Since the soil for groundnuts and cocoa has not left you for the Niger Delta, shouldn't you embark on another aggressive groundnut and cocoa cultivation instead of dreaming of how to dispossess other states of their birthright?

Sometime ago, we heard something about oil in the Chad Basin etc. should that happen, I would not be surprised if there is a volte-face from these agitators with regard to their present position on derivation policy. Such a big shame that in the 21st century when everywhere in the world, the general direction is to embrace equity, justice and fair play in order to reduce the ubiquitous incidents of crisis and violent agitations, persons who, by their exposure, socialization and position should act as and be their brothers keepers and thus, move Nigeria forward in unity, are busy fanning the embers or discord. Since the days of 1.5%, 3% and now 13% derivation policies, it has always been my firm conviction that in our strident quest for what is our due, that whatever the unfair Nigerian majorities conceded to us, whether reluctantly or grudgingly, that such concession has come to stay, and that we shall retain such while asking for more until equity realised. Recent events, however, have jolted me into the realization that there are still very many conservative cheats, so greedy that they would rather pull down the house if they cannot get what they remorselessly and undeservingly covet.

This sensitive matter together with the acrimonious brouhaha that it is generating is bringing back the issue of resource control to the front burner. The Federal Government itself, if it is genuinely interested in putting this matter to rest, should prevail on these Northern and Western Governors to realise that their suit is in bad faith, otherwise those already accusing it of complicity in these intrigues and schemes would appear to be right. Some believe that the ruling of the Supreme Court on this issue is faulty because, while it decided that "the low-water mark constitutes the seaward boundary of every littoral state", Ben Nwabueze, an internationally acclaimed law professor and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria faults this definition which he says negates International law.

According to the learned intellectual, international law "recognises the continental shelf of state as a natural elongation of the land in which the state borders lie", which implies that wherever is considered as the natural border between one state and another, even a country, automatically becomes your border irrespective of whether it falls on water or land. This is a definition that is succinctly clear instead of the "low-water mark" and other ambiguous jargons. But whatever any lawyer or their sponsors, or even the Northern governors would contend, the fact remains that the National Assembly as the highest legislative body in Nigeria, today, has duly passed a law abrogating the on-shore/ off-shore dichotomy, which the president has also signed into law and this is and remains a law of the land which we shall continue to stand by.

This is a major reason why we should continue to advocate for resource control as this ill-advised and contemptible law suit has manifestly proved that it is not yet 'uhuru'- in our struggle for political and constitutional fairness, in other words, true federalism in Nigeria'.

The protagonists for the abrogation of this young On-shore/ Off-shore abrogation law should be ready to hold themselves responsible, if, God forbid, the restive Youths of the Niger Delta embark on the warpath. The timing of their action is itself terribly flawed; a time when the people of the area were just reconciling themselves to the little that the abrogation law had added to them, when they are aware and have no illusions as per what they deserve. Never in the recent history of this country, has a group of people, ignored clear and present danger signals in the polity, as to joyously and heartily embrace trouble and divisive enterprise, as the clique of 22 governors had just done.

Once more, the situation brings the demand for Sovereign National conference to an all-time high. This, as persons of all persuasions and origins have consistently advocated is very crucial so as to debate, disagree and agree on all the contentious issues within Nigeria's shaky Federation. In a forum such as this, definitely the enthronement of a true federalism in Nigeria would make problems like On-shore/ Off-shore dichotomy become a thing of the past, and thus avert the level of vile passion which it engenders.

Today, everywhere in the oil bearing communities, there is palpable tension arising from the people's anger and outrage occasioned by the provocative litigation and only a sincere political intervention could restore the situation and so calm frayed nerves, thereby return the polity to the path of sustainable peace which the nation desperately needs.

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

Actually translates to bravehearted.