Ever Felt Like Mortar?
By Philip Ilenbarenemen
The Author Philip Ilenbarenemen in this articles tries to unearth how the Niger Delta people really feel an the impact the April 2007 Presidential elections will have on the oil industry in Nigeria In this issue we bring you the second part of this article.
The final part will be in the next edition. In 1947, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba leader and first Premier of Western region, where the Yoruba are the majority nationality, described Nigeria as “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression.
There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”, “Welsh”, or “French”. The word Nigerian is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”
A year later, in 1948, Alhaji Abubakar
Tafawa-Balewa, an Hausa/Fulani and Nigeria’s First Prime Minister, once said of Nigeria, the country he was destined to rule, “since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite … Nigeria unity is only a British invention.”
Every Government in the Country since independence has continued to preach this “Nigerian unity” and even enforce it by military force without recourse to why and how this can be genuinely achieved because non of these Governments ever really consulted the people, never accounted to them even though governments can only be by the consent of the governed. Nigerian Governments have always operated like the new colonialists – distinct from the people they are supposed to govern.
Members of the Government, their scions and minions control the vast wealth and political power of Nigeria while the people watch helplessly.
In 1966, during the bloody counter coup of July 29 – August 1, the Northern Military Officers – mainly Hausa/Fulani, actually flew the ‘Araba’ flag over their headquarters, Bonny Camp, Lagos. Araba means separation in the Hausa language – these officers were ready to secede from Nigeria if things didn’t go their way. The next year, following the pogrom against the Igbo masterminded by Hausa/Fulani military officers particularly in the Northern region, the Igbo led the secession of the Eastern region into the Republic of Biafra. On that occasion, only the Mid Western region and the Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers area leaders, the area now known as the South- South region including the Niger Delta, were the only ones that sort for peace and kept the country together like mortar in a building project. Beyond this is the fact that only oil money from this region holds the country together, whether it is in fuelling unbridled corruption and oiling the machinery of the feudal oligarch that has been ruling the country since independence.
Nigeria could have easily disintegrated like Yugoslavia but for the oil from the South-South region – the mortar in the Nigerian project.
The untold riches and the easy way it can be acquired from this mineral resource, is like the nectar in the flower that the bee keep returning to, for the rulers of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the land from which it is gotten is polluted and desecrated and the people disenfranchised and abandoned like inanimate mortar in building.
Nigeria is definitely not your runof- the-mill Country. It is very different and unique in the way it has successfully evolved a brand of corporate and government life or system, which is an admix of possibly all known systems, underscored by a cutthroat tradition of winner takes all, in which the government is the all-in-all and the leader of the government is the kingpin – the big masquerade.
Its huge size and stupendous riches unevenly distributed between the North, (with its tradition of Islamic feudalism run by a clique of Hausa/Fulani Oligarchs known for its ruthless will to exploit and an effective control mechanism to which its people has surrendered since the Fulani Jihadists came to power over 500 years ago) and the South, (with its Western education and Christian and animist traditions that encourage individual aspiration to betterment) worsen things because of a continuous volatile and unstable polity clearly marked by internal strife and mutual suspicion of the different ethnic groups that make up the country.
A very important lesson to learn about Nigeria is that Government is the biggest business and whosoever is at the helms of affairs is the Chief Executive Officer of the business with unlimited, unquestioned powers over all resources and manpower. Although there is a bi-camera National Assembly, this is mainly a cash-and-carry arrangement – what with the regular distribution of Ghana-mustgo bags of money, which the executive use to buy or “settle” the Honourable members to vote in a certain way? This is why there is an unhealthy do-or-die struggle for the plump job of President of the Federal Republic – the central government that has progressively confiscated and appropriated the powers of the people and the federating States. The ethnic group that wins the Presidency wins a jackpot of sorts – new and real economic development and lucrative opportunities to loot the national treasury or to develop the area, presents itself to them.
Thus census figures are falsified, Local Government Areas created and electoral wards delineated arbitrarily and corruptly to give an unfair advantage in voting and federal budgetary allocations to the areas from which members of the powers that be in the land come. Even though Nigeria is not a communist or socialist country, and it is ultra-conservative and traditionally capitalist, Government controls everything.
Even its own professed mixedeconomy system does not function as a mixed economy at all; it operates more like a private unlimited liability company. Thus any business, no mater how small or insignificant it may seem, especially in major industries like Oil and Gas is known and sanctioned by the highest person in the Government i.e. the President who is also the de-facto Minister for Petroleum Resources with an Adviser whose advice he may or may not take.
Since the days that General Ibrahim Babangida ruled as the Military President, 1985 – 1993, oil has been used as a multi-purpose weapon to oppress, coerce, buy or compromise people. It is the government’s choice weapon to divide and rule. It makes millionaires with it and keeps its loyalist and big wigs happy by giving them OPLs and OMLs. Even though well publicised public biddings for concessions are carried out in the oil sector, the eventual winners are decided independent of that by the President and his kitchen cabinet. Of cause there are always the few token companies with little known government members but those are the ones used to keep the lid on the bottle of explosive threatening to explode in the oil producing areas and even then, such companies are run and remote-controlled by agents of government like well placed traditional rulers and party stalwarts or in fulfillment of the Federal Character of the country. All these has up till now been done to the exclusion of the people from the area where the oil is exploited, – the Niger delta, albeit with the token appointment of some oligarchs from the area to lucrative jobs where they can amass wealth that is then used to subvert their people’s will. This is the awesome power the Oil-bearing South-South wants to taste come 2007 but so far the major nationalities, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba are not giving them any unified hearing such as was done for the Yoruba as compensation for them over the tragedy of the annulled June 12 1993 Presidential election won by Chief M. K. O Abiola who later died in government custody.
There was a tacit agreement by other nationalities in Nigeria to allow a Yoruba for the Presidency, which was then contested by two of their foremost Chiefs, Olu Falae and Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo won and had remained in power since then. This type of arrangement can be put in place for the South-South with the right political will by other regions as compensation for years of abuse and neglect.
Read the final part in the next issue.