There is an adage that goes like this “…if the cracker of Palm Kennel is not counting the nuts, the mortar would, because it feels the pain.” This is the exact feeling the political class of the North are exhuming to ensure that we achieve a divided house in the ongoing probes especially in the Oil sector of the economy where her citizens are soon to be indicted to their shame.
Meetings on Revenue sharing formula and every issue bothering on North and South have always ended on an ugly note in the country because each time, the truth is about be told, the very political class of the North, would throw spanner to the works, raising dust as if they are strangers to the very issues which are at worse the realities of our time. I once had the false belief that with the likes of Dr. Umaru Dikko aging away, a near ideal Nigeria would soon be in place to let us live as one united entity, because we can't divide. At least not in the life time of the greedy lots on every side. But the recent outcry by the Northern political caucus of the House of Representatives, few weeks after the Central Bank Governor Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi flew a kite about the poverty in the North, and started donating cash without reference to code of practice, has only a confirmed that we are far from achieving growth and development in any sphere. But with the expose below, the Talakwas (the common under privileged people of the north) shall soon take to the street and stone their leaders out of office if they be true to themselves.
For a starter, in the 60's after independence, Nigeria had an exciting and enviable balance in distribution of resources across the country. In the North, there was Corn, Groundnut, Cotton Benn seed, Cashew Hide&Skin, Rice, Cattle, Goat and Sheep etc. in the same area, we had Columbite, Tin, Gold other precious stones and minerals. In the south, we had Cocoa, Kola nut, Rubber, and Palm Oil, yam, to mention only a few. There was balance of trade and self sufficiency. Nigeria was hailed as one of the light in the tunnel and hopes were high that the country would soon be what Malaysia has ling become. That turn out to be still birth courtesy of the half baked leadership we have received through military and political power from the northern region.
It is well known that after the civil war of 1966- January 1970, which General Yakubu Gowon declared “no victor no vanquished,” Oil money, which was used to prosecute the war without any external borrowing, began to flow. Gowon put the money into good use by constructing roads, stadia in Lagos and Kaduna, organized the 2nd Black World Festival of Arts FESTAC '77 but did not build a kitchen for himself. The rest we all know.
Then, Oil derivation was 50%. Subsequent military rules reduced it to the present 13%. But the misapplication of the resources from Oil caused the diversion of focus to paper businesses which produced the era of Import License, for Rice, Cement and Milk, anything anyone could conceive including sand!. Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf then Minister for Commerce and Industry was noted to have been issuing Import Licenses from even his bed room in his private home at Taroni in Kano. With attention turned from Agriculture to Oil, Alhajis who were great farmers became Portfolio carrying businessmen. The quest for our local products diminished and we soon became an import dependent nation. The northern leaders were in the helm of affairs. They did nothing to stem the tide, the only brief period of sanity was the interruption of the Northern Military by itself when General Muritala was killed in a coup d'état and Obasanjo, a southerner, was enthroned. His era brought sanity as he recognized that the nation's wealth had spent all her foreign reserve on importation of luxury items. He it was, who introduced AUSTERITY MEASURE to check our propensity to consume foreign goods. He introduced what has become the fad now in the use of our local fabrics – Adire and other Nigerian wears.
The North has for years held sway in Agriculture, had Fertilizer subsidy and distribution, yet no farm yield to feed any of its states even when the funding id from Oil. Benue state government has continued yearning to feed the nation with her Rice production. The North have remained in the Water Resources ministry, they have all the Dams – Goroyon in North West, Shiroro in Niger, Hadejia Jamare Rivers Niger and Benue, huge agricultural investments through Nigeria Agric and Rural Infrastructure Bank with head quarter in Kaduna, but nothing to show for their leadership. The North has continued to head the Railway Corporation and continually rendered it useless. In fact rail lines in virtually all the states have been closed because of inactivity, except in Lagos/Ogun state axis. Reason? The Northern personals are heads of affairs and have jointly decided to frustrate this sector in favour of the selfish individual transporters. They alone are in Haulage industry and have destroyed all the roads in the south were bulk goods would have been transported by Train. Yet they cry foul!
In education, a Professor Jubril Aminu was the Minister who introduced the 6-3-3-4 system. To date I am yet to hear if he ever discussed the success or failure of the system which he thought would lead the north to catch up with the south. Even as I write, a northerner is the current Education Minister leaving a southerner to do the yoo jobs while core policy decisions are taken behind the scene.
The North is known to have large deposit of Mineral in Gold, Columbite, Precious stones, Tin, Kaolin and many more. Why has the ministry of Mines been unable to produce result even after Dr. Oby Ezekwsili reorganized the place for huge revenue generation?
Now Oil the main gross! While the ministerial appointment for Petroleum Recourses had remained in the hand of the North over the years, Only Prof Tam David West and current Mrs Deziani Maduekwe are the southerners who have had and are having a bite at leading in the control of resources generated from their area. Dr. Rilwan Lukman remains the only Nigeria who has served the industry longer than anyother. Today, take Oil away from him and he would be at best Jelly fish! What was his contribution to the south which made him a millionaire in any currency? He it was who fought to take the Petroleum University to Kaduna. What qualified Alhajis Mai Deribe, Nasiru Ado Ibrahim, Sani Bello, Aminu Dantata, Saleh Jambo, Dangote; or Generals Ibrahim Babangida, T.Y. Danjuma, Sani Abacha, Abdusalami Abubakar etc to the ownership of more than 70% of the Oil Blocks in Southern Nigeria? What has been their individual or collective contribution to the very North their domain, talk less of the South where they milk with impunity?
Can the agitators for balance distribution of funds confirm how many states in the North which are viable and can fend for itself from creation to date? What has been the total internally generated income of all the Northern states put together? But for state creation, where would all the current agitators be today if they remained in the former Old Northern Rigeion? Have the agitator taken a look at the income portfolio of states like Osun were Dr. Aregbesola holds sway and he has never complained Or Ekiti State of Dr. Fayemi? Let them ask.
We can go on and on. But I think the main issue here is that the current crops of their representatives at the National Assembly involved in these agitations are largely younger men not versed in the history of this nation despite their now lofty positions. I have maintained that most Nigerian who are around 40 years and below, would hardly believe that a Nigeria where peace and tranquility once existed. Most of them matured into the decay which the military bequeath to us and the likes of IBB promoted to no end.
The South has never been afraid of balance of spread of income distribution. What has remained a focal point is the demand for balancing of the States and local government, as well as number of legislators on each side so that votes can be counted based on conscience, not size. What the North has gained in Size, the South has replicated in resources.
Given the rage that is being caused by the ripple on the North and South South dichotomy, it has become necessary that issue enunciated in the agenda for National Conference is considered an absolute necessity. If we fail now, we shall live to fight another day. Let us face issue frontally for once and be what we ought to rather than being considered an underdog even when you are on the verge of, and have really spilled your blood settling issues which should not exist in the first place.
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt.