TRIBALISM, CORRUPTION WORSE THAN MILITANCY
By Kali Gwegwe
August 27th, 2009
2009 is not a year for any serious Nigerian to sit on the
fence and watch the political class plunge the nation into an avoidable danger.
This is indeed the time for every Nigerian to come out and talk the nation out
of trouble. I wish to therefore state unequivocally that except our political
leaders properly trace the root of our problems; they would end up leading us
into yet another ditch.
For sometimes now, the activities of Niger Delta militants have posed serious
concerns to the Nigerian nation and the international community. But strangely,
the presidency has continued to act in manners that clearly suggest it does not
understand the root causes of militancy in the Niger Delta region. For the
avoidance of doubt, militancy in the Niger Delta is a response to the grave
injustice in the sharing of oil and gas revenue between the federal government
and the oil bearing states. President Yar’Adua must therefore dig deeper or
else; he would end up in a shallow pit.
The foundation of the problems threatening the survival of Nigeria goes beyond
militancy. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka was right when he picked holes
in the presidential offer of amnesty to Niger Delta militants. From all
indications, amnesty will only succeed in temporarily reducing the activities of
militants owing to the manner the peace deal is being pursued. I am not too sure
if it would succeed. From the look of things, the presidential offer of amnesty
is fair in spirit but arrogant in nature. Even the timing too is very faulty. It
has therefore turned out to look as if the presidency is deliberately ignoring
the main source of the problem. This has caused many people- natives and non
Niger Deltans to lose confidence in the amnesty deal.
To begin with, there is already a very deep and faulty assumption by many in
government and the military that militancy is the main challenge being faced by
Nigeria. It is for this reason that the federal government has appropriated huge
amount of human, material, and financial resources towards maintaining peace and
security in the Niger Delta region in the last two years. It is most pertinent
to note that no amount of guns and bombs can bring about genuine peace and
security in the midst of grave injustice. There is an overwhelming reality of
injustice in the sharing of oil and gas wealth. To many discerning mind, the
offer of amnesty to repentant militants is a clever way of suppressing genuine
demands of the Niger Delta people. To achieve this goal, the issue of criminal
elements in the “struggle” have been placed on the podium of national discourse.
The element of injustice against the Niger Delta people has been placed in a
shallow grave in Aso
Rock. Justice and fair play have been murdered! The truth is that; even if the
federal government succeeds in using amnesty to suppress genuine agitations of
the Niger Delta people, the Nigerian nation would still be hunted by the ghosts
of justice and fair play.
The greatest threat to the survival of Nigeria was the civil war of 1967 to
1970, where about 500,000 people died either from hunger or military operations.
It is necessary to point out that this unfortunate war was fuelled mainly by
deep tribal sentiments. The wanton scaling down of derivation principle from 50%
in 1960 to the current 13% too is induced by profound tribal sentiments. There
is a strong belief among the Niger Delta people that derivation principle would
have remained at 50% if God had blessed the nation’s super tribes with oil and
gas. Therefore, after several political efforts failed, militancy was introduced
to make the Nigerian nation allow the Niger Delta people too taste the same kind
of benefits the super tribes enjoyed when groundnut, cocoa, and palm oil where
the main stay of the nation’s economy.
The voluntary offer of amnesty and unconditional pardon to repentant militants
by President Yar’Adua is arrogant in nature because the presidency has
deliberately chosen to put the cart before the horse. It would have been more
appropriate if the offer of amnesty had come after the consideration and part
implementation of the recommendations of the Ledum Mitee led Niger Delta
Technical Committee (NDTC). In trying to find solutions to the Niger Delta
question, the federal government is bent on digging from the bottom of the
problem. This is wrong. The massive weight of injustice may collapse on the
labourers under. These labourers are mostly Niger Deltans; genuinely desirous of
lifting the region out of the pit of insecurity and underdevelopment. It would
therefore be proper that President Yar’Adua first remove the mud of injustice
covering the sharing formula of revenue from oil and gas. As recommended by the
NDTC, derivation principle should be
raised to 50%. With this, there would no longer be any justification for
militancy. Oil installations would no longer become targets of militants.
Rather, militancy would be domesticated. Local politicians would be forced to
become accountable to the people. This is the surest way the presidency can
effectively solve the problems of militancy and insecurity in the Niger Delta
Let no one be deceived by the false opinion that the Niger Delta people are
dissenting because of neglect by succeeding Nigerian federal governments. This
is clearly a deviation from the truth. In fact, it is a very huge distraction.
We must realise that Nigeria is a federation. As such, no federating unit(s) is
supposed to wait for Abuja to dictate the pace and direction of its development.
By the instrumentality of both the NDDC and Ministry of the Niger Delta, the
pace and direction of development of the region would conveniently fall into the
hands of the federal government. This is risky and not in the spirit of
federalism. It is even perilous for any group of people to have their destinies
in the hands of others. Despite the fact that the NDDC and Ministry of Niger
Delta are manned by natives of the region, it is non-Niger Deltans that dictate
While moving a motion to amend Anthony Enahoro’s historic independence motion on
the floor of the Federal House of Representative on the 31st of March, 1953; the
leader of the Northern People Congress (NPC), Sir Ahmadu Bello submitted that:
“Every community is the best judge of its own situation. In this regard, Mr.
President, the people of the North are the best judges of their own situation
and we cannot commit ourselves to fixing a date for the attainment of self
government. We are fully aware of all the implications involved and we want to
make it abundantly clear that the destiny of the North is in the hands of the
people of the North and for the 1956 date, it should be amended to substitute as
soon as practicable.” The real implication of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s submission as
it relates to the Niger Delta question is that both the newly created Ministry
of Niger Delta and NDDC cannot naturally address the developmental challenges of
This is simply because; Niger Delta people are the best judges of their own
situation. 50% derivation is the only way the Niger Delta people can have their
destinies in their own hands.
Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Martins Elechi- governor of Ebonyi State and many
other prominent scholars have argued that since Nigeria is a federation; every
state in the country was supposed to develop at its own pace and direction. This
is the beauty of fiscal federalism. As against the fears of many, fiscal
federalism will encourage healthy competition among states. A healthy
competition will promote diversification of the economy. There would also no
longer be the traditional “waiting” for the monthly federation account
allocation from Abuja. We must not forget the fact that there is no part of this
country that is not naturally endowed. Our leaders are only lazy and non
creative. There are very countries on the face of the earth that do not have oil
and yet, doing better than Nigeria.
Let me at this point emphasise that tribalism is the foundation of Nigeria’s
numerous problems. Because of tribal interests, our past military and political
leaders could not locate proper solutions to combat the hydra-headed problems of
corruption. It is now strictly unNigerian to indict or expose a fellow tribesman
for corruption. Colonial Britain planted the seed of tribalism in Nigeria. She
did this for her own selfish economic interests. Before the birth of the
Nigerian nation following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern
Protectorates in 1914, the numerous tribes were not offered any opportunity to
discuss their future. Such discussion would have enabled the tribes to set
safeguards and standards on how they would co-exist. This arrangement would have
also helped to protect the rights and privileges of both the major and minor
tribes so as to avoid conflicts.
The whole world is aware that Isaac Boro decided to pull the Ijaws out of the
Nigerian nation in 1966 owing to the domineering nature of Nigeria’s super
tribes. Tribalism seeks to give undue advantage to tribal interests. At some
point in time in the history of Nigeria, tribalism became so popular that
derivation principle was reduced when crude oil took over the place of
groundnut, cocoa, and palm oil. It took various efforts, including militancy for
derivation to climb to 1.5%, 3%, and the present 13%. The raw message the super
tribal zealots are now preaching to the Niger Delta people is: “Half bread is
better than none.” This half bread is represented by the NDDC and the newly
created Ministry of Niger Delta. The question following all of these is: “Why
give half, when the full would suffice?” 50% derivation is the full loaf of
bread the Niger Delta people are demanding. This is the reason for militancy in
the region. Unfortunately,
criminal elements were able to infiltrate a genuine struggle that was aimed
primarily at righting the wrongs caused by the nation’s past leaders. It is also
necessary to point out that high-level youth unemployment, poverty, and do or
die politics were the holes through which the criminal elements entered the
Niger Delta struggle.
It is my humble opinion therefore that for Nigeria to move forward, the
presidency should not isolate and deal with the problems of militancy in the
Niger Delta region alone. This selective action would not take Nigeria any
further than where we are presently. It would rather push us into a ditch. I am
calling on President Yar’Adua to dig deeper by ignoring tribal sentiments in
finding genuine solutions to the Niger Delta question. He should quickly sponsor
an executive bill that seeks to increase derivation principle to 50%. He should
also intensify the war against graft. The EFCC and ICPC have gone to bed since
he took over from Chief Obasanjo. It is only then that Nigeria would experience
peace and progress.
Should the president fail to do so, it would appear to mean he does not
appreciate the evils of tribalism and corruption. Without any fear of
contradiction; tribalism and corruption have done Nigeria more damage than
militancy. So why fight only militancy? If the amount of force used to fight
Niger Delta militants are directed at super tribal zealots and corrupt
Nigerians, this country would enjoy peace, unity, development and prosperity.
*Public Affairs Analyst
*Chairman, Bayelsa State YSFON
*Premier League Match Commissioner
*Former Chairman, Bayelsa United FC
No. 6, Gwegwe Street,
Yenagoa, Bayelsa State
17th August, 2009.
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