STRENGTHENING NIGERIA

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STRENGTHENING NIGERIA'S DIVERSITY THROUGH RESOURCE CONTROL


Address by Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, governor of Enugu State address to
the Conference of Southern Governors. January 2001.


THE summit today and your presence here cannot be taken for granted.
This is a great honour to me personally and great respect to my
people. Please, feel at home and enjoy Enugu's famed traditional
hospitality.

Your presence here is not just a statement of your confidence and
commitment to the Conference of Southern Governors, it is a ringing
proclamation of the dire necessity for our summits to be held more
regularly as a platform for deliberating and resolving some pressing
national issues. Our maiden summit in Lagos, last October, has amply
advertised the positive potentials of the conference's role in
bringing stability to the polity.

I am convinced, as I believe your excellencies are, that the way
forward for Nigeria as a united entity is for us at various geo-
political levels to make a decision today, not tomorrow, that the
time has come for us as a people to forge our collective destiny in
the furnace of constant dialogue and frank discussions. This indeed
calls for us to rise up and speak frankly to ourselves and among
ourselves. I believe that it is through such cross-interactions,
horizontal and vertical, that we can expunge instability from our
body politic. If we talk about our collective and individual
problems, we are more likely to find solutions to them than when we
stay apart, throwing solo tantrums.

The failure of the political and constitutional engineering which
prepared Nigeria for independence from Clifford's in 1922 to
Lyttleton's first ever Federal Constitution in 1954, and the
subsequent constitutions imposed by the military is the denial of the
right of contribution to these documents to the people for whom the
contents are intended. The reality has been that the operation of one
document throws up the imperfections which sooner than later engender
fresh clamour for constitutional re-engineering. This is why at 40
years, Nigeria seems fixated on the problem of writing a workable
constitution. We have a responsibility as leaders and citizens of
this country to take constructive steps to put a halt to this
unwholesome trend.

If after the amalgamation of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern
Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1914, there were
no constant clamour for reforms, there would have been no London
Constitutional Conference of 1953, and probably no Lagos Conference
the following year and no Lyttleton Constitution thereafter. There,
probably, would have been no independence for Nigeria today. And no
Federal Republic of Nigeria!

>From the divide and rule tactics of the colonial government, complete
with its disruptive force, Nigeria has remained a mere geographical
entity, bereft of any sense of collective nationalism. The differing
strategies of employing indirect rule in the three regions helped to
entrench ethnic and sectional jingoism above national cohesion. The
net result has been virulent protests and riots which have pervaded
the land. The Jos riots of 1945; the Kano riots of 1953; the Tiv
uprising of 1959-60 and 1964 and full blown violence in the West in
1962 were ample symptoms of these social tensions which were to
assume a frightening dimension with Major Nzeogwu's coup d'etat of
1966 and the civil war of 1967-70.

To stem this crisis, subsequent Nigerian leaders have embarked on
splitting the country into smaller units in the vain hope that the
problem will go away. From three regional structures, Nigeria moved
to four regions, and when the civil war broke out, to 12 states.
Further exercise by the Murtala/Obasanjo administration split the
country into 19 states in 1976. Ibrahim Babangida changed the
landscape to 21 and later 30 states, before Abacha increased the
tally to 36.

Rather than help to bring the tension down, the multiplication of
states has tended to stoke it because it helps to further strengthen
the already strong centre. In the process, it heightens the fear that
the centre is indeed excessively centralised in the same manner as
military chain of command, and therefore, unlikely to be able to
resolve the contradictions in the polity. The reason for this is not
difficult to find. In Nigeria's 40 years as a nation, democracy has
only worked for a collective period of 11 years. The remaining 29
years are military years, or the years the holocaust ate away, as the
popular saying goes.

The human rights wild fires which has continued to plague the Niger
Delta and the various forms of social tensions in Nigeria make
restructuring and its twin brother, resource control, compelling
imperatives in resolving the country's burning problems. As the
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
observed in its recent publication, Democracy in Nigeria: Continuing
Dialogue(s) for Nation-Building, Capacity-Building Series 10: "The
major basis on which the demand for restructuring has been made is
the relative autonomy of the component ethnic nationalities in
Nigeria". It is now left for us to determine the parameters for this
relative autonomy, considering that restructuring without resource
control is like building a house on a foundation of quick sand.

It must be noted, however, that there is a strength in Nigeria's
diversity. There is greatness in that rainbow coalition, a coalition
of languages, of tribe, of religious affiliations, ideologies, wants
and desires. All the same, there needs to be a true structure that
guarantees certain degree of autonomy, so each different group can
pursue its different agenda peculiar to it under the umbrella nation
Nigeria; call it true federalism or whatever. The periphery must be
strong, must be vibrant and cohesive. But the centre needs only to be
strong just enough to hold.

At the threshold of independence in 1959, some sections of the
country trembled over the stark implications of a federal structure
with a strong centre. There were obvious inclinations to strong
regions and a weak centre. The songs are different today. The
principle of each part maintaining its identity and contributing to
the centre according to the limits of its resources and ability as
the binding philosophy for the federating units have been jettisoned
over the years. So, what makes this option more compelling now than
it was over half a century ago?

The variables which made the conferences in London and Lagos
imperative nearly 50 years ago are still potent today. The national
question which provoked our nationalists to question the monopoly of
the colonial government over the bread and butter issues are still
rearing their ugly heads in the form of resource control and national
conference.

The clamour for resource control and its attendant demonstrations
have their roots in our colonial legacy. Having effectively
subjugated the Niger Delta between 1886 and 1889, the colonial
authorities sought to oust our people, especially the indigenous
population from the bread and butter issues in the economy of the
colony. With the 1914 Colonial Minerals Ordinance, which bestowed
monopoly on "British and British-allied capital," the colonial
masters excluded Nigerians from participation in the oil sector. In
the same manner, our indigenous representatives, when they became
gracious enough to appoint or elect them into the colonial
parliament, were excluded from issues pertaining to mining,
agriculture and resource control generally. To ensure total monopoly
in the economy, the flourishing trading kingdoms in the Niger Delta
Opobo, Bonny, Brass and Aboh were subjugated. King Jaja of Opobo who
offered resistance paid with his life in exile in 1891.

Shell D'Arey and later Shell-BP became the sole prospector of oil in
Nigeria. Even as other multinational companies joined the oil
business, the marginalisation of the Niger Delta did not abate. The
feeling of marginalisation engendered by colonialism grew as the
devastation of the area worsened by the day, even as oil increasingly
played a leading role in the country's economy. As the degradation of
the environment in this area grew in inverse ratio to the area's
contribution to the national treasury, the flashpoints in the region
multiplied. The situation worsened when the Federal Government after
wrestling the control of these resources from the colonial
authorities went ahead to behave as if the student had surpassed the
master. The lack of openness and transparency in accounting for and
disturbing the resources of the country over the years and the
lopsidedness in siting social amenities procured from oil revenue
increased apprehension in many quarters that not only are some
animals more equal than others, the wolf may indeed have only
conveniently donned the skin of goat.

The highpoint was the mushrooming of various movements for the
betterment of the Niger Delta and the other parts of the country. The
Bill of Rights presented by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni
People (MOSOP) to the Nigerian people and the United Nations in the
early 90s lamented that for the area's contribution of $30 billion to
the national till between 1958 and 1990, Ogoniland and by
extrapolation, the entire Niger Delta, had nothing to show for it
no meaningful representation in Federal Government, no pipe borne
water, no electricity and no jobs. In the aftermath of this
presentation, the area became a theatre of war and degradation of the
people's right to free speech and association.

The position of the international community on the matter did not
deter the military authorities from executing nine Ogoni leaders in
1996. Neither did it stop the devastation of Odi in 1999, in the
aftermath of the Egbesu crisis in the area. Our duty as leaders is to
manage this Niger Delta question in a manner that will bring
permanent solution to the problem. According to the International
Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in the same report
cited earlier: "Resource control is, perhaps, the central emerging
issue in the Niger Delta. The general attitudes seems to be that
without restructuring the Nigerian society, economy and polity in the
direction of letting people control their resources, democracy in
Nigeria has little chance of succeeding". Can it now be said, in the
light of the above realities, that the present effort by the Federal
Government to tackle the problem through the Niger Delta Development
Commission will suffice? Otherwise, shall we fold our arms and allow
this democratic experiment founder once more?

In the days of the groundnut pyramids, cocoa and palm oil derivation
was fashionable, probably because some saw some perceived advantage
in resource distribution. Has someone stopped to ask why the regional
governments all over Nigeria were able to execute independent
political programmes without reference to the centre? The simple
answer lies in the autonomy which the regions enjoyed in generating
and husbanding revenue, and only remitting to the centre the royalty
necessary for operating the federal exclusive list. Why did the
military dump this derivation formula once oil started laying the
only golden egg in the economy?

What is the implication of this for national security? As we are
aware, security is intrinsically linked to the economy, in the same
manner that the economy is inextricably woven with politics and
administration. And as Lord Denning puts it, we cannot divorce
national security from natural justice. Of course, natural justice
implies equity and fairness. So, what are we saying here? National
security is not an abstract. It relates to people and issues. It
relates to the economy and it has its anchor point in justice. What
are the variables that nurture national security? How does a nation
begin to conduct its affairs in a manner that guarantees its security?

Neither can national security be treated in isolation from the
security of the component parts. The regions were strong because
before the emergence of the national police force the regions had
direct responsibility for such matters. The decisions of the alkali
courts in the North were enforced by the regional police while courts
marshals popularly known as courtman in the localities enforced the
judgments of Native Authority Courts in the East and the West. Even
the crisis of interference in local affairs by the federal police
reared its head as far back as the early 60s during S.L. Akintola's
political crisis with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. That the national police
force has not been sufficiently able to handle the issue of security
of lives and property is evidenced by the resurgence of state
controlled paramilitary forces in some states in Nigeria. In the
Second Republic, the tendency was manifested in the road marshals
created by governments controlled by the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN)
in the West and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) in the East and the
Middle-Belt.

The factors which made their emergence imperative in those days are
still germane today. The explosion in the number of militant
organisations across the country Oodua People's Congress (OPC),
Bakassi Boys, Arewa People's Congress (APC), Egbesu Boys, among so
many others, is a clear manifestation of overbearing pressure on
the resources of the federal police and a big question mark on its
ability to effectively police the entire country in the face of its
limited resources and apparent shortage of manpower.

The implementation of the State Independent Electoral Commission, as
enshrined in Section 197(b) and elaborated in the Third Schedule,
Part II (B 3-4) of the 1999 Constitution is one step which can aid
the process of restructuring and political stability. It will
immediately bestow autonomy on the states with regards to internal
affairs. It will equally bring cohesion in the states because each
state chooses leaders who can deliver according to its local
peculiarities and political nuances. Its successful implementation
shall be a litmus test of the ability of the states to harness the
powers and resources being devolved to them, for the development of
their localities.

Besides, it will help to establish clearly the place of the local
government system in a truly restructured federation. It will help to
mobilise the local governments, to provide leadership in tandem with
the state governments, in that critical point of development, to
build a synergies that will help strengthen efforts to deliver
dividends of democracy to the people. Resources shall be
painstakingly generated and frugally utilised. It will spell the end
of the bazaar for those who have no programme for the people.

The emergence of the Sharia Legal System in some states in the North
and hoopla generated by the phenomenon in the country has refocused
the Sharia debate in the country. The failure of the 49 wise men who
drafted the 1979 Constitution to come to agreement on the Sharia
question almost marred the constitution drafting exercise. After walk-
outs and counter walk-outs, wise counsel prevailed and the survival
of Nigeria triumphed over the recriminations on Sharia. Sharia
remained in the penal code as a personal law. The sneaking of the
Sharia Legal System into the 1999 Constitution could not have been
done with the best of intentions. The volatility which attended the
news of the introduction of the Sharia legal system in Kaduna and
other states in the North speak of how much of a bad augury it is for
the country's political health. And so, did the deaths and
destruction of property, which followed in the wake of the crises.

Realising how insidious and dangerous religious insecurity is to a
country, the National Council of States intervened, advising for a
return to the status quo, which does not seem to have been fully
accepted. We have heard arguments about introducing cannon law as an
answer to the Sharia option. As leaders, committed to the
inviolability of the Nigerian sovereignty, we should avoid actions
capable of plunging the nation into chaos.

We must also, your excellencies, refocus our educational pursuit.

( See Communique released at the end of the conference)

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