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Nigeria is truly at a cross road

Nigeria is truly at a cross roads because the usual enemies of Nigeria are again in the forefront making suggestions that can only lead to further strive. The indisputable fact is that the only part of the country that are truly treated unjustly are the oil producing areas of Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. They contribute over 90% of the oil and gas derived revenue shared by the entire country. Lagos state is similarly short changed as she contributes over 65% of the total non –oil revenue shared by the entire country and the non-oil derived revenue now makes up close to 50% of the total revenue accrued to the Federation accounts. The oil producing areas suffer ecological damage and receive significantly less than they contribute. It is time that the Federal government produce a breakdown of the amounts that is contributed to the federation account by each state and the amounts received from the Federation account by each state.

The national conference failed to make a decision on that critical part of the equation that dealt with fiscal federalism. It however went on to suggest more states. One  from the Igbo South East under the present laws and thereafter made provision for 18 more under the most stringent rules as to make them practically impossible to create. That resolution amounts to diversion of revenue from the already ecologically damaged oil producing areas of the Coastal mid west and eastern states to the small slither of land that is the South East of Nigeria. It also meant that indigenes of the oil producing states will therefore have even less places in the federal bureaucracy (civil service and national educational institutions) and the igbo areas of the South East will take up more places in such Federal government institutions. This monetary and bureaucratic disadvantage is not just suffered by the oil producing areas but by all areas around the country.

The igbo have for a while now propagated the false narrative that it is discriminated against in the area of state creation. It points to the position where it has 5 states in its “geo-political region” whilst other “geo-political regions” have between 6 and 7 states. This is false. The constitution and the law does not recognize “geo-policital zones”. It does not exist. All current 36 states were already in existence BEFORE Ekwueme (in another national conference of the 1990’s) suggested dividing the already existing 36 states into “Geo-political zones” for political purposes. There are no laws currently existing that provides any benefits to any “geo-political zones” that benefits or discriminates against a zone based on the number of states deemed to be within it.

Secondly, in terms of state creation, the former large Northern region now has 19 states. The former Eastern region now has 9 states and the former Western region now has 8 states. The former Eastern region was not larger in land or population than the former Western region yet it currently has more states. If an injustice can be discerned, it is very clear which part of the country can justly sing that song.

An extra state for the depleted population of the South East will increase the number of senators and representatives representing the South East in the National Assembly. At the current time, each senator and house of representative member represents a significantly smaller number of people than every where else. The people of the South East therefore has more electoral weighted voting strength than any other part of the country.

In terms of revenue obtained from the federation account, the states of the South East gets per state the highest of the second group of states outside of the oil or VAT producing states of Nigeria. That means each state of the South East gets more money per kilometer of road that can be tarred compared to the much larger states with more land to make road and bridge worthy.

If the South East, despite these advantages are given even more voice is the senate, would that also require changes to constitution to limit representatives of people in NASS to indigenes of the states to which they represent? Otherwise, I fail to see how the area least accommodating to non indigenes and therefore attractive to less non indigene settler populations from other parts of Nigeria should have the advantage of extra seats in NASS from the South East whilst simultaneously being allowed to stand for elections in other parts of the country. How is that fair and just to other people?

Olusegun Obasanjo now comes into the mix. He has been a rather interesting character. An above average former president from an economic standpoint. A critical focul point in the sustenance of Nigeria’s longest democratic experiment due to his wholesale sacking of Nigeria’s erstwhile coup prone military officers during the early part of his first term.

He is also a destabilizing factor in that he has imposed two incompetent leaders and one terminally sick leader on Nigeria during his time (Shagari, GEJ and Yar Adua).  Whenever the opportunity presents itself for him to sabotage the Yoruba nation or an individual of Yoruba origin with the smarts and potential to take Nigeria forward be rest assured that this immensely insecure and jealous man will rear his head to put a spanner in the works.

I predict Obasanjo will come up with some national suggestion that will aim to deprive a clearly competent acting president from properly leading Nigeria in the unlikely event of Buhari proving unable to continue. Wait for him to suggest a ticket of two more incompetent persons that will take Nigeria further down the road to non-performance whilst appearing to appease the current agitators. Now he is suggesting negotiation with Biafran racists now called IPOB. Any listener to Radio Biafra when manned by Nnamdi Kanu will be surprised by the language of racism directed at Northerners and the Yoruba in particular. There is a reason why America is not negotiating with Al queda or ISIS. Nigeria has rightly not negotiated on matters of substance with its most lethal rebel organization to date (Boko Haram). An organization with repugnant racist or religious ideas should not be countenanced nor should it be negotiated with.

Additionally an organization fighting for the liberation of its people whilst aiming to colonize other people with Oil , Gas , land and Sea  advantages (without their consent) is not an organization that should ever be taken seriously as spokespeople for anyone other than themselves.

Nigeria is a democratic society with an ever increasing representative democratic government. It is time to tell the Igbo nation that they ARE being treated fairly and equally but they would not be treated SPECIALLY. They should be encouraged to vote for representatives into NASS that represent the prevalent views of their igbo people. If that means voting in IPOB members so be it. It is for those members to take their demands to the floor of NASS and once brought to the floor it must be fully debated by the National assembly provided that they represent more than 50% of the elected officials from the “South East” zone of Nigeria.

That said, fiscal federalism must be addressed. The existing 36 states are viable and are reflective of the needs of the 370 ethnic groups to have sufficient breathing spaces within existing states. Currently, certain ethnic groups in Rivers, Kogi, Benue, Niger, Adamawa, Nassarawa, Cross River and Delta still feel somewhat suffocated in their existing states and crave further state creation.  Movement back to 6 regions can never be a wise long term move when only 2 of the suggested 6 regions are homogenous. That means the other 4 regions will contain so many different ethnic groups and very large populations and landmass that may benefit from some bureaucratic savings but such savings will not make those regions viable.

The key must be to devolve more power back to the states especially vis a vis exploitation of mineral assets (including silver, gold, oil, gas, Bitumen etc), VAT and port revenue. The Federal government may need to concentrate on fiscal, monetary policy, customs, armed forces, infrastructure that links states (as opposed to infrastructure within states) and may be health (especially as it concerns managing outbreaks of contagious diseases). Individual states should be free to regulate and provide its own electricity needs as well as its own roads and bridge requirements. Critically, elections must be kept nationally so as to ensure that the people can change non performing state actors. It is a must that politicians must be accountable to their people as only then can true democratic benefits can accrue to its people.

Dele Awogbeoba