TOWARDS A BETTER NIGERIA

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TOWARDS A BETTER NIGERIA

 

by

 

Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd)

 

Presented at the Integrative National Conference on Sharia, Resource Control and Anti-terrorism in Nigeria organized by the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Nigeria May 2002.

 

EVERY event-in-history, development or crisis-in-politics starts from root causes sustained for duration by some agents or factors and come to their final end because of one reason or the other. It might therefore be wise for us to imitate nature; by breaking our work into three segments of: source, sustainers of the threat of crisis and strategies for dissolution or resolving the problems of national question before us. One of such 'sources' and 'sustainers' of the recurring cases of instability is the exploitation of religion for political ends. Let us examine the root causes of Nigeria's enduring problems.

'How we came to be as we are' has very much to do with our colonial legacy and the resultant neo-colonial basis of our present polity. The 'seeds of recurring crises' were sown right from the conception of the idea of amalgamating Northern and Southern Nigeria; greed was one of such seeds. The 1914 amalgamation was necessitated by the British colonisers' crave to use "Southern and Middle Belt Nigeria's north-western neighbours as proxies in their exploitation of the Southern and Middle Belt rich land resources. There are many documented evidences to testify to this observation. One of such testimonies is the statement by the conceptualiser of the merger idea, Lord Frederick Lugard that: "The material prosperity of the South increased with astonishing rapidity... afforded ever-increasing revenue....The North, largely dependent on the annual grant from the imperial government, was barely able to balance its budget with the most parsimonious economy."

Lugard's observation is still as valid in 2002 as it was in 1913. Another proof is the fact that the attraction and consequent crave for Southern Nigeria land resources led Lugard's boss in White Hall-London - the colonial secretary - Lord Lewis HarCourt (who the city Port Harcourt was named after) to dub southern Nigeria 'Southern Lady of means'.

The second 'seed of enduring instability' sown was the British colonisers' 'hegemonist's tactics' in their usual resort to 'divide and rule' of pitching one part of their protectorates against the other. Towards guaranteeing their (British neo-colonialists) continuing exploitation of Middle Belt and Southern Nigerian resources, the 1914 amalgamation was also to serve as a medium for 'subordinating the South to the North?' An important point, which Professor Omo Omoruyi demonstrated in his 1999 authoritative modern Nigerian history book: The Tale of June 12. The merger was seen as a kind of 'solemnised North - South Marriage' in which the British stooges, the North-West fillanci colonialists, were portrayed as the 'husbands' and Southerners as the 'wives of means.'

Related to the British imperialists' tactics of divide and rule is the third source, that is, discord which has to do with the birth and nurturing, by the British colonialists, of stooges, from which the founding members of the feudal cabal were born. This they nurtured by according sons of the North-West Fulani Emirs favours. An example of such favouritism is borne out by the June 17, 1913 Lord HarCourt comment in which the colonial secretary stated that:

"We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury... the well conducted youth is now on allowance on his own...."

The fourth 'seed of instability' sown later on, immediately after 1960 Independence, is the politicisation of the military. In addition to mastering 'divide and rule' tactics from/which the British are notorious for, the North-Western Fulani political elite adopted British 'Gun Boat Diplomacy' or more accurately 'armoured vehicle hegemonist strategy.' This took the form of planting within the armed forces their (politicians-in-uniform) sons in preparation as alternate instrument for sustaining the 'Townie Fulani Cabal' hegemony whenever they fail electorally to win national power.

On taking over government through the 'barrel of the gun,' military dictators starting from General Yakubu Gowon transformed the Federal Democratic Republic type of government which the British colonialists left us with into a feudal-Unitarian form of government.

As part of the feudal cabal's hegemonic grand strategy, Babangida's and Abacha's military regimes surreptitiously and illegally inflated the numbers of their kith and kins' states, senatorial districts, Federal House of Representatives constituencies and local government areas. This 'calculated creation of in-balance of power that perpetually gives the Hausa-Fulani competitive advantage over the rest' is a structural injustice that has to be redressed. This may be the reason why the North-West zone political elite are against a National Conference that would re-examine this unfair advantage which they fraudulently possess.

'The feudal cabal and their surrogates have over the decades put in place strategies and plans of action for usurping control of Nigeria's most strategic institutions.' The control of the Nigeria Intelligence Community is one of such usurpation. This important acquisition of the Intelligence Community accounts heavily for why Nigerian political leaders outside the fold of the oligarch's caucus may be allowed to rise to the high office of the president but disallowed from exercising fully the power that goes with the office. This is indeed the cause of the destabilising rumblings at the heart of governance as we speak. Obasanjo is being aggressively opposed for trying, in the oligarch eyes, to go above his station. The IBB's of this world do not want a non North-western Hausa-Fulani aristocrat to have both the office and the power of the president. Obasanjo to the cabal has breached the rules of his enlistment to serve as their stooge. To make matters worse, from the oligarch's perspective, their nominee for Obasanjo's running mate was rejected. The choice of continuing in office with Alhaji Abubakar Atiku who does not belong to the feudal-led cabal, and does not come from the North-Western Fulani ruling class, has further offended the oligarch. Obasanjo - Atiku 2003 Re-election campaign turning to battle royal between the cabal - anti democrats and the pro-democrats.

Members of the cabal have cornered for themselves, and their fronts, easy access to lucrative oil prospecting licences. Affording them not only strengthened financial muscle but opens the door into the room for cultivation of deeper relationships and networking with the international oil cartel which boasts of some of the most powerful men in the world. Leading logically to a fraternisation between Nigeria local oligarch and the international cabal.

Other power engendering institutions such as the National Electoral Commission, Armed Forces, National Population Census Board, key national educational institutes like Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), Central Bank Nigeria (CBN), Customs and Excise, the Immigration Services, etc, were for decades under the effective control of the far North.

The 'balance of power' in the existing political order tilts heavily against the professional class and the workers. The political economic order was so socio-engineered by the military dictator Ibrahim Babangida that today there is little or no middle class. Being an elite group from which constructive critics of government policy come from, the then middle class had to be done away with. The resultant - political - economic structure is one that there are a few rich people in the midst of masses of poor. A very unhealthy state of affairs for democracy,

The existing dysfunctional political -economic structure has to be restructured before anything good can be expected to come from it. There has been a lack of the recognition of the significance of re-structuring and correcting the abnormalities in the centre of Nigerian polity. For instance, whenever Obasanjo tries to take on an almost incurable problem, such as corruption, he finds out that the causes of the problem extend far beyond where government attention is being directed. Ignoring the bigger picture when tackling a particular problem that the government is confronted with has often meant taking two steps forward and falling four steps backward.

For example, without 'structures' to engender financial accountability, Obasanjo's talk of stamping out corruption is neither here nor there. The present structure does not allow for meaningful participation of the governed in governance. The local communities are often alienated from the processes of implementation of the policies that are supposed to be for their benefits. A good example of this is the difficulty confronting Obasanjo's government. The tackling of armed robbery without first devolving policing powers to the communities and sincerely addressing the problem of high rate of youth joblessness. The present Federal Government approach to crisis tended to be one of loosing sight of the context in which a problem has to be solved.

Repeatedly, Western powers have covertly interfered in a number of African countries' domestic politics. Most African military dictators were indeed supported to overthrow democratically elected government by Western powers' Intelligence Agencies. To cite a few examples - the only truly democratically elected Congo Republic leader, Patrick Lumumba, was in the beginning of the 1960s murdered and replaced by one of the world's most corrupt leader - former army corporal military dictator Seseko Mobutu. This was done with the complicity of Western major powers' intelligence. Ibrahim Babangida's coup involvements were embarked upon not without the nods of rogue Western Intelligence Officials. There are allegations of complicity in the eventual elimination of Bashorun MKO Abiola, the winner of 1993 Nigerian Presidential Election.

The dislike for independent minded African leaders who wanted the best for their citizens support the view that the common motive of Western intelligence agencies' interference in our domestic politics was, and still, targeted at covertly imposing on African countries' leaders that would not only condone but abet the exploitation of the African States' resources by Western multi-national firms and crooks. What is threatening to our well-being is the fact that these fraudulent Western businessmen have for their own self-interest hijacked the real direction of Western powers' relations to Nigeria. Our resources are being carted away by bogus Western businessmen in connivance with their Nigerian surrogates. Stealing being done in the name of the British/French/American people's interest.

There are those in the West whose stock-in-trade would always be how to nurture dictators, and then impose them on African states, to make it easier for them to continue to rape the continent. Those at the thick of Western business interest in Africa are yet to exorcise themselves of the slave trade or neo-colonialistic mentality. This is why continued access to cheap Nigerian non-renewable energy sources features at the top of Western powers' strategic interests in Africa. The prospects for a polity in which all-strategic government activities are put under the electorate's scrutiny are bad news for this self-serving lot.

As the count down to Nigeria 2003 commences, the forces that will supply the fire-power back up to their Nigerian surrogates, the feudal oligarch, are made up of the following rogues:

Crookish Western Businessmen - particularly those interested in perpetuating the stealing of Niger Delta crude oil export.

Rogue Western Intelligence Officers - many of who have over the decades, through the Nigerian desk in their Foreign Office or State Department offices corruptly enriched themselves.

The above two groups of rogues' co-conspirator insiders in the IMF/World Bank/World Trade Organisation (WTO) and stock exchanges of Wall Street, NY and the City of London.

Our continuing to ignore the threat posed to our transition to democracy by these western business interests rogues ' interference in our domestic politics would be the most inimical Nigerian political elite undoing. Have we not realised or forgotten that they were the 'main-de-main' that, behind the scene, contributed to ensuring that no true Nigerian patriots, and of independent mind, such as the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, General Yar - Adua, Bashorun MKO Abiola, etc, govern Nigeria. Fear of not (like Obasanjo has shown) playing exactly to the 'Nigerian oligarch and the rogue international oil cartel' partnership's script seriously hampering the feudal cabal considerations of the likes of Dr. Ekwueme for presidency. This is simultaneously being done alongside their ongoing attempt to reach a kind of prenuptial agreement with a safe 'Ernest Shonekan' type of stooge from the South-South of South-East. This continuing policy of interfering with a view to having Western stooges or collaborators in the corridors of (African States) power has contributed immensely to boost Western economy and impoverishes the ordinary African folk.

The military governments starting from Gowon's regime saw to it that a hitherto true Federal Republic of Nigeria becomes Federalism in name only; and in practice a 'unitary centralised-feudal system of governance.' To ensure that the Nigerian Constitution stays federal only in name, and in actuality 'feudal - unitary' the military imposed constitutions including, the 1999 one now is use, deliberately have no provisions for defining Federal - States Financial Relations. The military dictators, particularly Babangida, knew very well that "Federalism without Fiscal Devolution is not federalism." For this reason, the constitutional section on "the Distribution of Financial Powers between the Federal and the States," which always form an important part of most successful federations' constitutions, was consistently omitted. Case studies of most mature democratic federations encountered in my research for my forthcoming book show that without explicit provisions in the constitution for 'the sharing of resource control powers between federal and the states,' there would be the sort of unhealthy uncertainty currently disrupting good relations between Abuja and most of the oil producing states.

Thinking well ahead in their desire to actualise the consolidation and sustenance of their financial colonisation of the rich land resources of the Middle Belt and the South, the feudal cabal used their sons who had forcefully usurped political powers, to use Prof. Itse Sagay words, to

"completely undermine and subvert the federal basis of association,"

The Petroleum act 1969; the 1971- Off-Shore Oil Revenue Decree (No 9 of 1971); the 1979 and 1999 constitutions - sections 44(3) and 62(2), and item 39 of the Exclusive list which gave the Federal Government sole power; were utilised to completely destroy any iota of fiscal federalism we had. Gowon's Military Government through Decree No 9 of 1971 repealed section 140 (6) of the 1963 Constitution which confirmed, in line with the universal practice, that the ownership of the continental shelf belongs to coastal or littoral states.

One of my forthcoming book research objectives was to discern, and distil out, un-ignorable universal principles and practices that underpin the world's most successful Federal democracies. With regards to the contentions 'resource control' palaver; one of such universal Federal democratic principle and practice is that, on the subject of mineral-solid and oil, and indeed non-renewable energy in general - these resources control come exclusively under the states of the resources origin. Rights/royalties and issuing of licensing to drill or mine always fall under the producing states jurisdiction. This is the case in the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, etc, to mention a few examples.

So one can see clearly the Federal democratic and economic injustices that the Middle Belt mining areas people and the Ibo/Yoruba/South-South oil producing states are being subjected to. This is recipe for disaster; as there can never be enduring peace without justice. Obasanjo-Atiku promise of political solution to the resource control palaver, and the fulfilment of that promise has been most eagerly awaited by the aggrieved peoples. For those of us seriously interested in keeping Nigeria, must heed the warning message that the Ijaw Congress gave in reaction to the recent Supreme Court Verdict on On/Off Shore oil dichotomy. The warning reads as follows:

"For every single day that the Federal Government ignores the call for Sovereign National Conference, Nigeria moves closer to the point where dis-integration would be inevitable and irreversible."

Another aspect of the threat of fiscal federalism in Nigeria is the spanner thrown into the wheel of our Federal democratisation process. There is too much dependence on un-elected heads of a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (QUANGO), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as the middleman source of revenue for the financing of governance.

Such monopoly of financial muscle, at the hands of a handful of technocrats, runs completely contrary to the spirit of modern democracy. Thanks to God! the Supreme Court recent verdict has stirred up the questions which some of us have been wrestling with for years. People forget that the April 22, 1990 pro-democracy military uprising against the military dictatorial government of IBB was necessitated by the insensitivity of the Federal Military Government to the Middle Belt mineral and Niger Delta oil producing communities' plight. It took the 1990 Major Gideon Orkar action to force Babangida to set aside Gowon's regime's initiated On-Shore/Off Shore oil dichotomy and to set the ground for the present minimum 13per cent derivation.

The NNPC - Multi-national Oil firms Joint Venture has become too much of a convenient tool for over-centralisation of financial powers to the Federal Government.

To compound matters, the President has discretionary monopoly of powers in the disbursement of Federal Allocation, Foreign Exchange Allocation, external Borrowing Powers and the channelling of Foreign Aid. What an 'absolute ruler' have we. The Federal Government is much more of a Supreme Military Council than an elected Federal Democratic Government. It is in these regards that the Senate's consideration of the liberalisation of oil prospecting is welcomed. The concern for the need for breaking NNPC monopoly of oil exploration so as to enable states and individual to participate makes clear the case for holistic restructuring of the polity. Such re-structuring cannot ignore the Federal democratic good practice (followed everywhere else) that resource control powers have to be devolved to the producing states/communities. In most successful Federations, the Federal Government revenue, on this subject matter, comes from the company/corporation tax, which the oil companies pay exclusively to the Federal.

The Land Use Act would remain a source of discord by virtue of its being essentially not in accord with the tenets of 'Republican' and 'Democratic' Federalism which we have elected to adopt as a system of government. For example; the decree, contained in Section 47(1) of the 1979 Land Use Act, states that the:

"Act shall have effect not-withstanding anything to the contrary in any law or rule of law including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and without prejudice to the generality of the forgoing, no Court shall have jurisdiction to inquire into."

Clearly Section 47(1) of the Land Use Act contravenes the opening provision of the Nigerian Constitution which makes clear the 'Supremacy of the Constitution.'

The Land Use Act suffers from the problem of its unacceptability. Firstly, the Act is an imposition by the military on a people who did not demand for such an Act. Secondly, the Act is perceived as an indirect extension of elements of the feudal land tenure customs (which the North-West Fulani imperialists utilised to legitimise their compulsory take-over of the Hausa talakawas land) to the Middle Belt and Southern Nigerian zones, which had their own statutory and customary Rights of Occupancy. Thirdly, the practicality of the matter is that the Land Use Act has served the interest of the rich and those in power, than the common man.

Undoubtedly Lagos State; and the oil producing states of Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers; are collectively the goose that lays the golden eggs. The cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt have deservedly become the engine wheels of the country's economy. But there is still no consideration for appropriate financial allocation weightage to cater for the need for investing in the infrastructural development and maintenance of such metropolitan cities' facilities. Any where else, it would have been realised that it is to our collective economic benefit to invest in the improvement of Lagos Stock Exchange/Commodities and Trading Markets/Air and Sea Ports - competitive advantage over other West Africa major coastal commercial cities.

The Nigerian political elite who should have known, and indeed those who claim to know, still does not behave as knowledgeable people who realise that: "Nigeria is a country of many Nations?"

A good example of such display of ignorance by elite in power is the so-called 'Federalist Collective' whose advertorial in our national dailies are much more of Federal Government propaganda than academics discourse which it purports to stimulate. It is shocking that the scholars or academics behind the 'Federalist Collective' have not freed their minds from the condescending and derogatory way the British colonialists described our nations and their citizens. The Federalist Collective still in these days and age mistakenly referring to our nations as tribes. My question to such patronising big heads is "what makes a Welsh or Scottish or Irish a nation - not a tribe; and Yoruba/Hausa/Ibo/Ijaw/Boki a tribe and not a nation? The political elite inability to come to terms with the fact that 'Nigeria is a multi-national country,' accounts for many of Nigeria's myopic policy formulation. Describing the various nations that add up to form the 'union' called Nigeria as tribes is very misleading. The devolution of political and economic powers to the component units of our Federation cannot be said (as the federalist collective wants the public to believe) to be tribal politics. It would have been thought that - that is - what genuine 'Federalist Collective' should be advocating for, not condemning.

The hang over of colonial mentality continues to becloud many of our political elite thinking; for instance, many of our elected officials and representatives still have more of an imperialist's perception of the concept of sovereignty than that expected from a modern day democrats. Decades of military dictatorial rule have reinforced our leaders' topsy-turvy understanding of the idea of 'sovereignty.' The Presidency thinks, like the 'Crown' of United Kingdom, that he is the 'sovereign.' This may account for our Head of State imperial Presidency tendencies. This has led to destabilising rivalry between the Executive and the Legislative - who also lay claim to being the 'sovereign.' The universal and democratic understanding is that 'political sovereignty' belongs to the people. The awareness is all 'double Dutch' to both the Presidency and members of our National Assembly. They forget that this "unalienable right to political sovereignty, the people delegate to their elected representatives only in matters of their choice."

 

Col. Nyiam, one of the leaders of the 1990 abortive coup against the Babangida regime, presented this paper at the Integrative National Conference on Sharia, Resource Control and Anti-Terrorism in Nigeria, organised by Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos.

 

 

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