20 March 2014, Abuja – Many of us have been inspired by the speech given by a former Minister, and co-founder of Transparency International, Ms Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili a.k.a. “Madam due process,” at the All Progressives Congress summit which held in Abuja, March 6th, 2014. I will put my full support behind her or any candidate like her for the Presidency of Nigeria in 2015. A particular line reverberates in my mind. In “The Uncomfortable Truth…,” she quoted George Orwell who said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. Indeed, the truth sets you free. I hope we can all be revolutionists in this sense. I hope we can all be brave enough to speak the truth though we may fear that we stand to be negatively impacted by so doing.
To summarily explain the perhaps controversial heading of this piece, I categorically assert that as long as Nigeria is a single nation, and as long as life, the most valuable resource, of one part belongs to all, all other resources belong to all. This is part of what nation means. Bayelsa oil belongs to Jigawa (too) because Jigawa’s blood is spilled in Bayelsa. Saying, “It is my oil” is treasonable until and unless Nigeria splits up.
If a Nigerian youth from Jigawa can be a part of the nation’s army and be drafted to fight and die in the creeks of the Niger Delta. If Nigerians from Bayelsa can be a part of the nation’s army and be drafted to go and die in the deserts of Borno, then all that is in and from the soil of each of these parts belong equally to all these youths. The gold of Zamfara belongs to all; so also the oil of Rivers belongs to all.
The most valuable resource of any nation is its human capital. As long as Nigeria remains a nation, and its government and security services are constituted of peoples of all parts called to make the ultimate sacrifice of fighting for and dying for the nation and regions within the nation, all other less valuable resources should belong to all the people. It is treacherous and evil to propose that the national army can die to protect your region, but that its members do not have rights to the life -supporting resources in the same regions; treasonably wrong and evil.
A truth encountered is that many of those who profess extreme ethnicity or tribalism and fight the loudest for “regionalism” and resource ownership are the first to throw away their “tribe” when they travel abroad. These are the ones you see in America who tell their kids not to speak “language,” because they want them Americanised and not to have “accent.” The same with some who go to Arabia and suddenly become more “Arab” than Arabians themselves. We know much of this is due to poverty, desperation and is sheer hypocrisy. However unless an opening for true conciliation is made, things will only keep getting worse. There is a fundamental problem that must be addressed.
More Nigerian troops and security officers have died in the north and the creeks in the last five years under the current administration than any similar period since the civil war. We read of troops ambushed and slaughtered in the creeks and these are young men from all over Nigeria. Likewise we have read of police men ambushed and killed by Ombatse and soldiers and police slaughtered by Boko Haram. Do we in our individual regions deny these men of our resource while we employ them to die for us in our or ‘foreign’ regions?
Those who read my thoughts know full well that I as an individual am interested and a staunch proponent of regionalism with the possibility of more elaborate disintegration if the people so desire. Whatever will rid the nation of its monstrous corruption, lack of opportunity, the cabal grip on all sustenance and the worsening insecurity and terrorism, is a go for me. The missing billions today finances global terrorism. We urgently must get out of this state of anarchy where no region is safe, not even the President’s own village. Some of us don’t have millions of dollars to offer kidnappers.
Today the north of Nigeria is one of the poorest places in the entire world. Poverty indices are as high as 87% in some regions. The candid truth is that the average northerner benefits naught from the oil resource abundant in the South. Compared to its neighbours outside the nation’s borders, the north of Nigeria is so much poorer. Nearby Mali and Chad have poverty levels in the fifties compared to north Nigeria where poverty is in the eighties. In contrast, Southern states have poverty levels as low as 20%. It has been only the cabal, north and south who have benefited from the oil wealth of the nation. Regionalism will give local leaders a responsibility to ensure the well-being of their people or risk quick and swift rebellion and expulsion. Today, they hide under and blame others and the ‘nation’ for their greed and failure to lift-up their communities.
If Nigeria is to remain as one nation, it should in my view have regions—erroneously dissolved by Aguiyi Ironsi with Decree No. 34 of 1966—reinstituted. I also believe the Parliamentary system of governance, also erroneously replaced with the presidential, during the Obasanjo first regime, should be brought back. The parliamentary system works better for multi-ethnic nations, as can be seen in India; and with this system, the entire 168 million citizens do not war over who is to become President, and only focus on people they know and elect as their local representatives who then select the President from among them in the Parliament. This will not only save cost, but reduce ethnic tension and financed violence.
But as long as we are one single nation, our lives are risked and sacrificed for each other and so also must our resources be the property of one and all. Boko Haram terror is sponsored with oil money. Why should the people of Bama suffer at the mercy of terrorists being fed fat by the nation’s oil money, but not be re-built from same oil money? Already the average northerner on the streets benefits practically nothing from the oil wealth of the nation, other than what they pay to buy of it at the pump at a price above the global mean.
If regionalism is restored, the people of each region will constitute their own armies who will die for them and the people of each region will be forced to support their own economies, with the centre not taking more than a few per cent from each region, and then to each will belong his resource.
Peregrino Brimah, The Punch