HISTORY LESSON: Boom For The Bleeding Giant by Cameron Duodo

Ranged behind these men of influence are a host of younger or more recently-arrived figures, many of whom have come into prominence in the past eight years as either federal or state commissioners. Among them are Alhaji Umaru Dikko (North-Central State); Chief Anthony Enahoro (Mid-West State) and Mr. J. S. Tarka (East-Central State). Professor J. B. Dudley of Ibadan University is also mentioned, as is Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Chairman of the Daily Times group, whose recent announcement that he will not go into politics after 1976 has been greeted with due skepticism.

The king-making process will be a very complex one, for today’s Nigeria is not at all a homogeneous society. The armed forces will play a part, traditional rulers, such as the highly-respected Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, will also have a say, albeit from behind the scenes, and the powerful business groups – feared everywhere as a sinister force – will no doubt use their influence. Take stakes are high, involving as they do control over thousands of millions of pounds. Most Nigerians dread the aggressiveness which in the past has characterized bids for power. They feel this could reassert itself with even greater venom during the new dispensation, and destroy the country’s hopes of new prosperity.

If a constituent assembly is finally set up, it is likely that the question of allocation of revenues from oil to the states will occupy a central place in its deliberations, even if, in the meantime, the Supreme Military Council has been able to revise the present system, in line with its nine-point programme. The controversy over allocation of revenues has its roots deep in Nigerian history. Between 1946 and 1965 alone five commissions examined the question.

The system that operates at the moment gives the federal government all the proceeds from a 55 per cent profits tax on oil operations. Off-shore operations attract a royalty payment calculated at 10 per cent of the posted price; this also goes to the federal government. But the federal government takes only five per cent of the royalties from on-shore operations, calculated at 12½ per cent of the posted price. Of the remaining 95 per cent on-shore royalties, 45 per cent goes to the state of origin and 50 per cent is paid into a ‘distributable pool account’ operated by the federal government. Fifty per cent of this account is distributed equally to all states and a further 50 per cent is distributed to the states in proportions to their population.

Flashpoints: New States, Old Tribal Passions
This complex formula seeks to do justice to the states that produce oil and to those that produce none, but have large populations to support; but the figures that emerge show the vast discrepancies that exist.

Revenue Allocations to States

State Allocation Population
(’73 census)
Mid-West £90m 3.24m.
Rivers £65.5m 2.23m.
East-Central £37.5m 8.06m.
West £30.5m 8.9m.
North-East £27m. 15.38m.
Kano £22.5 10.9m.
North-West £22.3m 8.50m.
Benue-Plateau £19.5m 5.17m.
North-Central £19m 6.79m.
South-East £18.5m 3.46m.
Kwara £15.5m 4.6m.
Lagos £13.5m 2.47m.

The federal government, in addition to these statutory allocations, is making available about £230 million in grants to the states in 1974/75, and also proposes to raise a development loan of just under £100 million, the proceeds of which will be passed to the states. However, the fact that the Mid-West State and the Rivers State, whose joint populations constitute only about 7.5 per cent of the federation total, take more than 43 per cent of the available revenue, rankles with the more unfortunately place states.

One suggestion being bandied about is that if more states are created, the disproportion in allocation between the oil-producing and non-oil proportion states will be minimized. But the creation of states is itself a flash-point in Nigerian affairs. What are the criteria that should determine the size of a new state? Population or area? Ethnic cohesion or administrative convenience? These questions are causing deep divisions within existing states, notably, in the East-Central State where there is a strong lobby for a new state to be called “Wawa”. There is also a lobby for three new states in the West – Oyo, Ondo and Abeokuta. And the North-East and North-West states, it is argued, could each be broken up into two states. The current argument is that “the Americans started with only 13 states, but now have more than 50”. So, the debate continues, and it is a tricky one in view of the tribal passions if arouses, and the attendant suspicion that it is all being done with an eye on “other people’s oil money”.

The question of the rise of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and the almost hysterical reaction they evoke against themselves from the rest of the population can best be illustrated by an account in the Sunday Punch of the doings of one of them over the Easter holiday period:

“Perhaps it may not be the wedding of the year, both in Lagos and Monrovia. (Let’s see how the people of Lagos will out-do it.) It certainly holds the record in both cities as the talk of the town. It was a grand, elaborate champagne affair, as smooth as the bridegroom successfully pans and executes his businesses, for which he is certainly on the Division One League Table in Nigeria today. The groom is …. Sharp-shooting, fast-traveling businessmen, Alhaji Isyaku Ibrahim, well known in Lagos, Jos, Kano, London, Paris, Washington (you name it) and lately, Monrovia. The bride, the lovely Miss Charlotte Baker, native of Monrovia, Liberia…“the affair started on Thursday, April 11, with the bachelor’s eve party at the flat of the best man, Major Abdul Bello (Nigerian Air Force) at Maryland Estate (Lagos). Guests who turned out at the all-night show numbered 500, including a good number of the Lagos party hounds who can smell a beer within 10 miles radius. Most of them had champagne. Next came Good Friday and the all-expense-paid trip to Monrovia from Lagos by about 150 selected guests in two chartered jet planes, by courtesy of the groom. Guests at the Monrovia trip attended a maiden’s (spinster’s eve) party given by the bride’s family. After the church wedding ceremony on Saturday, the Monrovia team hurried back to Lagos same evening with about 50 Monrovia guests, courtesy of the groom. And to Lagos party No. 2 at Commander Wole Bucknor’s residence at Child Avenue, Apapa. Easter Sunday brought the following events. The grand champagne reception at Federal Palace Hotel. Chairman, Chief Fani-Kayode (well, you know him). Bride and bridegroom were toasted by the dapper, eloquent Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule (well, you know him). The guests were about 500. It was a fashion parade and some of the lovely girls wore expensive aso ebi lace – in the style of the affair…

“The round-up party came on Easter Monday, at the Alexander Road residence of the flamboyant people’s man, Mr. J. S. Tarka, Federal Minister for Communications… Next morning, the groom accompanied the Monrovia guests back home …”

Suddenly, the reporter’s enthusiasm seems to flag and he begins to worry. Is anything wrong? He writes: “Of course, it doubtless cost a bit of money, but it&

#8217;s his own bread, man. And he’s one hell of a fine fella. So don’t holler about the bread. Rejoice, man, rejoice!”

‘If we bumped off 200 or so, the rest might learn’
This report appeared in the same week that the papers told the story of a pregnant woman who had been hit in the stomach with a stick and killed in a fight with another woman over a monkey’s tail that both wanted to use in cooking soup. One journalist juxtaposing the two reports, commented: “That is the story of Nigeria today: immense wealth for the few and abysmal poverty for the many.” He produced another report, revealed that a businessman imported a Rolls-Royce from Britain by airfreight and that he paid spot cash when Customs officers charged him about £30,000 duty. I myself was told by a friend from a neighbouring country of a visit to Lagos: finding it difficult to leave a party being given by wealthy friends, he explained that if he did not go, he might miss his flight home. The casual answer was: “Oh, I’ll drop you with the yacht if you miss the flight!”

Needless to say, the envy of the many against the few is excruciating: “I’d like to see a movement come into being that would pick off some of the bastards one by one,” said the journalist just quoted. “if we bumped off 200 of them or so, or took out their eyes, the rest might learn some sense.” It is easy to dismiss this as fantasy – yet it should be remembered that just before the January 1966 coup and the harvest of slaughter it set off, similar callous talk about the “Nigerian malaise” was in the air. Everyone wants the army to uproot corruption, but no one is able to say how; fewer still have seriously examined the implications of punishing businessmen for profiting from their contacts, and the resultant collapse of free enterprise – a system that is almost taken for granted in Nigeria. So corruption grows – spreading new young roots: 118 students at the University of Lagos have been sent down for using forged certificates to gain entry.

Meanwhile, believers in the profit motive defend it aggressively. When the Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing, Mr. Femi Okunnu, warned that Nigeria’s Indigenization of Business Decree (which reserves certain categories of businesses to Nigerians and limits the percentage of shares foreigners might hold in other categories) should not be allowed to entrench economic power in the hands of “a few chieftains” of business, Chief Henry Fajemirokun, President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, rounded on him with all guns blazing. Mr. Okunnu’s statement he said, was a “perverted interpretation” of the Decree, stemming “either from a peculiar idea of patriotism or from a nostalgia for the concepts of impracticable Fabian socialism of which I know the Honourable Commissioner to be so fond.”

In an atmosphere like this, it is difficult for other African countries to expect that Nigeria might use her wealth to take up the leadership of Africa and steer the continent towards total independence. There was a chance during the oil crisis last year for Nigeria to demonstrate whether her thoughts were inclined outwards; a number of impoverished African states asked Lagos for concessionary prices for crude oil. They were all offered plenty of oil – but only at the going commercial price.

There are good Pan-Africanists in the Gowon Government, notably Alhaji Aminu Kano, but at the moment their power seems to be minimal. A West African Economic Community, backed up with a strong currency in the form of the Nigerian naira, is mooted, but France is endeavouring to keep it on the drawing board and Nigeria will have to show more diplomatic perspicacity if the community is to take off.

Cameron Duodo reports on the modern Nigeria.
THE SUNDAY TIMES Magazine, September 15, 1974, page 23-36

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Join the discussion

  • Sir, apologies, I did try to find your contact details, and failing this, I made sure I acknowledged you at every opportunity in the article, even in the main title. I do not plagiarize, and always make sure I give credit to who it is due.

    I had the original Magazine, and I had to type the article out manually before uploading. I ensured that your name as the author was prominent throughout the article, as you can see.

    It was an excellent article and I say Thank You Sir. For the honour and opportunity.

  • You might have thought of asking me for permission before republishing this. Or you haven’t heard of “intellectual property”?