Of recent, I had an opportunity to conduct some consultancy jobs with the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Abuja. While there, I ran into a certain paper related to the administration of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, a place often touted as the centre of unity. These were not classified papers and had nothing to do with official secrecy. The paper was just a long list of the who-is-who within the echelon of the civil servants responsible for the day-to-day administration of the FCT. As I glanced through the sheet of paper, I observed that nearly everyone who was anybody as a director was either an Abdullahi, an Ismaila or a Garba. I did not see this as anything unusual in this particularly as the FCT is located in the Middle Belt. Why should those from the South, East, and West be the ones directing affairs in an environment that is not technically theirs?
But what happens at the Federal Capital Territory Administration is not happenstance. For years since independence, the North has always insisted in controlling the police, the army, the petroleum that they do not produce and even produce the president. Where this whole bravado came from I cannot tell apart from the fact that in the political configuration that heralded Nigeria’s independence, the North succeeded in playing the rest of the country against itself and insisted in vernacular ‘Ba Hausa, Ba Nigeria. There is nothing potentially wrong with this, only that that kind of sentiment became the Achilles Heel of the rest of the country. It is downright selfish. In saying Ba Hausa, Ba Nigeria, then there would be no place for the Isoko, Ibo, Yoruba or the Ibibio. If the Northerner says Ba Hausa, Ba Nigeria, and the Ibo man says Ogbu onye Igbo, Ogbu Onye Nigeria, and the Niger Deltan says Ma rie he, Nigeria rie he!, where does that leave Nigeria? Over the years, we cannot reasonably account for the milestones that government by the North for the North and for Northerners has impacted on the lives of the generality of Nigerians. Honestly, what that insistence has generated is religious riots, political intolerance and an uncanny ability to drag us down the road of retrogression and perdition. Unknown to the people who orchestrate the North-must-rule-Nigeria doctrine, the rest of Nigeria has let well alone not because we do not have the balls to pack a fight, but because we have people among us who have colluded with a Northern hegemony to keep us perpetually on the sidelines.
Most people aver that because of the kind of rulership that leaders of the North have provided over the years in the army, the police and in the key areas of petroleum and agriculture, Nigeria’s reputation has always been in the mud. Worldwide, nobody understands the logic of having key and sensitive sectors of the life of a nation perpetually in the hands of a tribal and geographical location. By far the only explanation that can be adduced for this senselessness is that this a semi-bastard country where the dubious federal character principle is mostly tilted in favour of equally dubious and unresolved population figures. We have come to a point where we are run via the template of Pareto efficiency – people do not contribute much but they insist on sharing the lion’s share of the resources they don’t even own.
Where and how we all found ourselves in that tight corner that Northerners MUST head the police, army, petroleum resources and agriculture I cannot tell. Nevertheless, the position adopted by Daily Trust of 3rd May begins to lend some credence to that notion, albeit succinctly. The paper carried a headline, Deltans corner top oil posts, and for some of us Deltans, we feel highly slighted and insulted by a paper that claims that trust is a burden. Before I go on, I want to say that I am at a loss with trying to understand what offence it is that Niger Deltans have committed that they are harangued and harassed the manner we are. Is it our fault that we have crude oil deposits in our backyards? Is it our fault that we somehow found ourselves feeding the rest of this country with this oil? I want to ask the editors of Daily Trust, how many of them have taken a tour through the Niger Delta and seen what the sleek roads, the high rise buildings in Abuja and other parts of this country from the billions of dollars from the Niger Delta have done to our lands? Perhaps out of haughtiness, they will not deign to travel there but if they are on the news as I think they are, they will surely have been monitoring what is going on at the Gulf of Mexico, where an offshore rig exploded two weeks ago. That was just two weeks ago, and the United States government has been running like mad to contain oil spill from that unfortunate incident. But as long as I can remember, [and that has been on a consistent keel since the 60s], oil has spilled in the Niger Delta and destroyed ecosystems and biodiversity to the extent that cash crops like paw-paw, sugar cane and yams no longer grow there, particularly in my village Uzere. All the shrimps, periwinkles, and fish are dead. Some governors whose responsibility should have been to tackle the Nigerian government head on either are compromised or are thinking of their political fortunes. And now, when it seems that there is one thing that Niger Deltans should enjoy in the few top positions that Daily Trust alleges Niger Deltans have ‘cornered’, the misguided editors went to town complaining and wringing their hands as if they lost a beloved son.
Over the years, I have had my reservations concerning the credibility of Daily Trust. I see the paper as a megaphone financed by bigoted fanatics with one agenda alone – the Northern rather than the Nigerian agenda. I have not bothered to talk about this because the paper is not the only one fanning the embers of ethnicity and egocentrism in this country. But this unwarranted attack on a peace-loving people fighting for justice is over the edge. Any right-thinking person would have thought that Daily Trust would write an editorial commending the employment and empowerment of people from the Niger Delta, if not for anything but to douse the palpable tension in the country from the injustices meted out to us in 50 years. Or that they could have risen to condemn one of their own who married a 13year old and has cast us in bad light in the international community. But no, they must insult the journalism profession by using the revered platform of mass communication to fan the embers of acrimony. Well, I have news for you and those who insist that the North must rule Nigeria. Rule all you want but the Niger Deltans MUST control their resources. Niger Deltans MUST head the NNPC. Niger Deltans MUST. If that is the one way to compensate us for years of marginalization then it must come to stay.
Ordinarily I should have asked my brothers and sisters to begin a boycott of Daily Trust, but I realize that that would not do. Rather I encourage them to keep buying the paper and use it only as toilet paper – that is until Daily Trust publishes a front-page apology to us for that insult.
PS: PRESIDENT UMARU YAR’ADUA, FRIEND OF THE NIGER DELTA, REST IN PEACE