Friday, October 8, 2021 9:50 am
By Sheyi Money
The founding fathers of the four regions of Nigeria, viz. Dr Nnamdi Azikwe of the Eastern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Western Region and Chief Dennis Osadebay of the Mid-Western Region, would turn in their graves if they saw how succeeding generations of leaders rolled back with reckless abandon the gains of the Independence era. The once buoyant economies of these regions (now 36 states) have since become prostrate.
While Nigeria remains in the backwoods of civilisation, our contemporaries at the dawn of self-government have joined the league of industrial economies of the world. Clannish politics, nepotism, ethnicity, tribalism, corruption, religious bigotry and insecurity – all ingredients of underdevelopment – now define our times.
If our founding fathers were to be politicians of this age, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State should have been cited in Onitsha, Anambra State, the hometown of the Governor-General. The University of Northern Nigeria (now Ahmadu Bello University), Zaria in Kaduna State would have been located in Rabah, Sokoto State, the birthplace of the Premier. Rather than it being established in Ife, Osun State, the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) would have been built in Ikenne, Ogun State, the homestead of the pioneer Premier. The Delta State University (formerly Government Teachers’ Training College), Abraka would have been uprooted and moved to Asaba, the birthplace of Dennis Osadebay. In the alternative, another university would have been established in Asaba while that of Abraka, progressively, is allowed to rot away. Give it to our so-called new breed politicians! They are obsessed with the present, not the future. They do not care a tinker’s cuss about tomorrow.
It is the oil from the Niger-Delta that built the Abuja International Airport, Abuja National Stadium, Aso Rock, National Assembly Complex, National Hospital, among other edifices
As at the time of writing this, one Pound Sterling exchanged for five hundred and seventy Naira (N570) while a US Dollar exchanged for four hundred and ten Naira (N410), both at official rates. Of course, the situation in the black market was worse. Yet in this same country, a Naira was once stronger than a Dollar, even had an edge over a Pound Sterling! Does this worry the present crop of leaders?!
In Nigeria, the governors seem to have cried themselves hoarse over the lopsided revenue allocation formula, which awarded 54 per cent to the Federal Government, 26 per cent to the 36 States and FCT, and 20 per cent to the 774 Local Government Areas. This inadmissible template has been in force for donkey’s years and is overdue for review.
At first, we thought it was a tale by moonlight when a news report emerged that a state helmsman had appropriated a federal government project to his hometown and funded it wholly with the meagre resources of his state. This sparked outrage across the federation but the governor did not appear to bat an eyelid. In Nigeria, the state governments and the federal government have for decades been at daggers drawn over the revenue allocation formula that has practically turned the latter into a lord of the manor while the former are mere vassals, having little or no money to fund projects beneficial to their teeming masses.
Without oil, there will be no salaries and allowances for members of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Without the petro-dollar, Nigerian politicians will go stony broke
There are no federal citizens. Everyone comes from a state. It’s a wholesale aberration for a state that generates the resources to always go cap in hand or with an empty bowl to the capital city to collect crumbs from the federation account.
Given the above background, what manner of economics, what particular economic benefit will make a state to deploy its scanty resources to fund a federal project one hundred per cent? But the scenario is a worse case. The state in question has a local replica of the federal road agency, which is on life support, on the throes of death! Yet the money meant for the state was deployed to serve an over-bloated, over-fed federal agency, just to have the presence of the latter in the governor’s hometown! It’s like building a house for your own neighbour with the inadequate resources of your own family, living in a rented apartment with a leaking roof and eking out a living! This same state, at some point, also received a bailout from the Central Bank of Nigeria in order to be able to pay salaries. Besides, it is also heavily indebted. The action of the governor qualifies to be the 8th Wonder of the World! But in Nigeria, nothing is impossible, provided it satisfies the whims and caprices of the powers that be.
Back to my own state in Delta, we must avoid all the pitfalls in Nigeria. The current state of anomie in our dear country is occasioned by the collapse of social values. As the strong economy bequeathed to Nigeria by the founding fathers was progressively destroyed, largely due to the military interregnums, social values became a victim. Values such as integrity, honesty, industry, perseverance, etc. became discounted. The average political office holder in our country is concerned with how to milk the system for himself and his family, even up to his tenth generation; the average citizen has also taken their cue from public officeholders. It’s no longer a question of how to develop the system but what can you and your tribe acquire from the system. What a come down for Nigeria!
It is time for the Nigerian nation to redress the decades-old injustice of using the resources of one part of the country to develop the others while returning miseries to the owners of the resources
Is there hope for this nation? Is there a place of redemption for Nigeria?
Let justice ring all over Nigeria like a bell. According to Martin Luther King Jr., the famous civil rights leader, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… The time is always right to do what is right.”
It is time for the Nigerian nation to redress the decades-old injustice of using the resources of one part of the country to develop the others while returning miseries to the owners of the resources. For instance, it is the oil from the Niger Delta that built the Abuja International Airport, Abuja National Stadium, Aso Rock, National Assembly Complex, National Hospital, among other edifices. It is the black gold from the South-South that constructed the Maiduguri, Kaduna, Katsina, and Sokoto Airports, among other monuments. The Federal Universities of Technology in Owerri and Akure, and Universities of Agriculture in Makurdi and Abeokuta were erected by the money that came from the Niger-Delta region. All the states in Nigeria depend on oil revenue to build a common market in their local councils! Without oil, there will be no salaries and allowances for members of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Without the petro-dollar, Nigerian politicians will go stony broke!
Nigeria has suffered the Niger Delta for too long a time. From the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) in 1961 to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000, it is all movement without motion, deceit, half-hearted measures and contempt for a people blessed by nature but weakened by the central government.
Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Across the federation, let us return to the legacies of our founding fathers. Among others, let us diversify the economy. Let us return to agriculture, the chief support of the economy in the 60s. Let there be a paradigm shift. Let there be an end to prebendalism, nepotism, ethnic and tribal politics, corruption, religious bigotry and racial supremacy. Let justice flow like a mighty river all over Nigeria. Let all stakeholders coalesce to restore the glory of Delta State.
*Sheyi Money, Social Enterprise Development Consultant, writes from Ughelli, Delta State