Date Published: 04/04/10
Rethinking the Ghaddaffi Proposal By Idumange John
In any argumentative essay, students are expected to argue for and against a particular line of thought, event or phenomenon. For example in an argument on whether Nigeria should be split into many countries or remain a single geo-political entity, Ghaddaffi can say Nigeria should be divided while David Mark may argue that Nigeria should remain one. In an argument like this, I will always argue that Nigeria should remain one if I am benefitting from a “United Nigeria”, but I may argue on the contrary if I perceive that I am cheated or marginalized in a “United Nigeria”, What is central in any argument is ones ideological wavelength, perception and interest. We live in a world of interest after all.
A Ghaddaffi that understands that an oil giant like Nigeria is poor may have too many reasons to advocate that the oil producers are not benefitting. With such a mind-set, it would be trite argument that Nigeria should be split in to as many fragments as possible. Ultimately, whoever wins the argument depends on the weight of facts advanced to buttress the argument and the permutations of the moderators ala the judges. In Nigeria, this is what underpins the advocacy for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC).
I have not had a wink of sleep when I remembered a couple of ago since I remembered that about 44 years after the Yenagoa- Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road was initiated, people from my Senatorial District cannot go home by road. It is difficult to explain to the children why a very prolific oil producing area could be criminally marginalized and denied basic physical infrastructure. The drama of the road became more worrying when the cream of the intelligentsia embarked on a protest march to Creek haven to convey their displeasure about the neglect of the road.
The great trek by Professors Youpele Beredugo, E.J.Alagoa, Kingsley Alagoa and others was symbolic in more senses than one. First, it is an indication that forty years of diplomacy and dialogue has failed to yield results. Secondly, it demonstrates government’s insensitivity to oil producing host communities. Thirdly, the neglect of that all-important road in an area that has vast agricultural potentials and huge reservoir of oil and gas. In some sense, it also shows the lack of seriousness on the part of the leaders in the area, who could have long embarked on civil disobedience or better still protest by breaking a few pipe lines to drive home their grievances. The nation has short-changed a people who contribute a lot to the economic health of Nigeria. In some sense, the area has also contributed to the high corruption index of the nation because if there was no oil, corruption in Nigeria would have been minimal in our landscape.
Other roads that were earmarked for construction such as the Lagos-Ibadan High way was constructed years back and has since been reconstructed several times, but the Yenagoa- Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road has been confined to the trash can of history. The Federal Government has added to the confusion by awarding the road contract to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC). This is in spite of the fact that the NDDC is underfunded and the road requires massive capital outlay. If the Federal Government wanted the Yenagoa- Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road to be constructed, it could have been awarded to Julius Berger or any of the construction giants but this will never happen. The same Federal Government awards the dualization of Federal Roads to the construction giants like Berger, Setraco and those owned by the comprador bourgeois.
The Yenagoa- Kolo-Nembe-Brass Road is just one example that has made me rethink the Ghaddaffi proposal. How will I convince the younger ones that Nigeria is one indivisible entity when the subsisting laws in the in the Federal Republic create a situation of inequality in the development arithmetic of the the country? How can we see development when the producers of crude oil have no access to participation in the oil and gas sector of the economy? Why should we allow these obnoxious laws such as the Land Use Act and the Petroleum Act to endure when every civilized nation is modernizing among others.
Every passing day, the centrifugal forces tearing the nation apart are becoming stronger and more conspicuous. The Federal Character Principle is now outdated but in the Federal Budget, no one gives a thought to equity in the distribution of basic amenities and infrastructure. We live in a country where some people do not feel safe in other parts of the country. They are butchered in the name of religion. The butchery accompanying the insecurity is so intense that the National Youth Service Corps now faces the threat of been effaced. In a country where national integration has become impossible, those criticizing President Muammar Ghaddaffi need a rethink.
Because of lack of national integration, Nigeria was plunged into a 30 month fratricidal civil war, which unfortunately has not taught us a lesson as a people. Today, Nigeria is the only oil producing country where petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and kerosene are imported because of politics and lack of sincerity in keeping the refineries working. Thus, while fuel scarcity has become a monster walking tall on four legs. Poverty and unemployment are twin scourges afflicting the people. The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) only serves the interest of those administering the programme.
Why will reasonable Nigerians no consider the Ghaddaffi proposal when the youths and the most productive segment of the nation’s population travel to countries that are far less endowed in terms of natural resources, to seek greener pastures. Today, More than 80 percent of youth (graduates inclusive) is either unemployed or unemployable. While there is exponential expansion of the educational system, quality has been compromised hence the school system produces graduates that can hardly meet the demands of the dynamic, knowledge-based economy. The emigration of youths to Libya is so disturbing Colonel Muammar Ghaddaffi wanted to find out how resources are being used in Nigeria. Nigeria is not industrializing, even as existing industries are mismanaged and rendered insolvent by self-aggrandizing leaders and economic fifth columnists. The result is that Nigeria is a consumer nation, which imports everything ranging from computer hardware, textiles, office pins, touch light, designer toothpicks, razor blades to killer generators from countries that were at the same level of development about 30 years ago. This trend is likely to continue until Nigerians agree on some moral guiding principles underpinning development and civility.
When Nigeria operated the Regional System, the centre was not very powerful and so regional leaders were able to take development to their people. What looks like development in those places was the result of the Regional System. It may be It may be true that the Libyan strongman may not understand the ethnic configuration of Nigeria but at least the spate of religious and ethnic riots are reported and Ghaddaffi as former Chairman of the African Union (AU) cannot be daft or insane not to understand the political and economic under currents of these crises. The resource curse and its accompanying oil war is also given robust coverage.
In matters of good governance, issues on transparency, accountability and due process have submarined. Under the present dispensation, Nigeria can be described as a neo-patrimonial or hybrid state that shares all the Characteristics of a “failed state”. There is a huge private appropriation of public resources through corruption, over inflation of contract values and misapplication of sconce resources. The nation is also characterized by clientelism, cronyism and vertical exchange relationships to maintain power at all cost leading to very weak cross cutting horizontal interest and relationships. Our politics is still characterized by the zero sum paradigm, and political campaigns are largely devoid of issues and ideological underpinning. Neo-patrimonialism or the patron-client relationship is replicated at all of the political hierarchy. Nigeria’s economy does not fit into the real “capitalist” mode or the “command” economies, we operate a quasi capitalism, which regards the state as the primary source of wealth. Thus, people who hold the levers of political powers capture the benefits accruing from the economy and then distributes them according to the logic that captures their fancy. This unedifying system shall endure.
The constitution has aggravated the already existing confusion in the areas of revenue allocation among the three tiers of government; revenue allocation criteria as bases for equitable fiscal federalism; State and Local Government creation to further grassroots development. Other problems are boundary adjustments related to claims of oil wells and other mineral resources; federal character in key government appointments and distribution of federal projects; the need to entrench a just, egalitarian and equitable society and good governance. The situation shall not abate because of systemic corruption that is endemic in the body polity.
There is naked aggression, genocide and the violent law of the corporate frontier have all conspired to bear out the fearsome dialectics of blood and oil. The power of fossil fuel and the politics of the capitalist West cum the underdevelopment we see in Nigeria suggests that oil is thicker than blood. When a blessed nation is ruined, raped and mangled by self-serving leaders, one can discern the modesty in Ghaddaffi’s theory. What is actually required is the creation of four separate countries: the North, East, and Western Regions in addition to the present Niger Delta. Our leaders should not shy away from the proposed Sovereign National Conference (SNC) because we may be postponing the doomsday. Anyone who would challenge this viewpoint should provide a list of Libyan Youths in Nigeria who are either here to seek employment, greener pastures or buttress their natural tendency for self-actualization. Ghaddaffi is not only right, he understands the problems of Nigeria more than the Senate President and the horde of critics gyrating as patriots.
Nigerians should rethink the Ghaddaffi proposal because all arguments seem to favour a break up. Politically, there is lack of cohesion. Economically, Nigeria is well endowed but the endowments have not translated into economic growth. Socially, the various ethnic groups have not coalesced because of the seemingly irreconcilable differences existing among the multifarious ethnic groups. Religiously, the differences are as clear as a crystal ball. In the circumstances, it is wrong for Nigeria to withdraw her Ambassador to Libya. That diplomatic action is a choreography of what is obtainable in a corrupt, bankrupt society such as ours, where leadership thrives on sycophancy and falsehood.
Idumange John is a University Lecturer & Activist