In oil they trust By Babayola Toungo

Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger leads the Northern States Governors' Forum

It is now becoming crystal clear to me why and at what price northern leaders, temporal and spiritual, sold out the North to the likes of Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom, Tompolo and the rest.  The recent calls by our political elites led by Babangida Aliyu, Niger State governor, for an increment in their “share” of the federal revenue allocation, gave us a window to what it is all about.  Their price is nothing more than their continued stay in office to resume funding their voraciousness from the oil proceeds dispensed from Abuja.  Their commodity for sale?  The collective present and future of the region, its people and its economy.

While the average northerner is struggling to survive one day at a time and therefore doesn’t have the time or inclination to find out what happens to what is already ‘allocated’ to his state, our governors are finding it difficult maintaining their lifestyles, with their “share” of the oil money that is becoming more outrageous by the day.  While over 95% of northerners cannot afford to eat three times a day, or send their kids to school, or even take their pregnant wives to the hospital for safe delivery, Babangida Aliyu went to town with a begging bowl ostensibly on behalf of northerners to beg for an increment in their monthly ‘stipend’, which a friend called “irresponsibility allowance” for our governors.  I have been wondering how any such increment will impact on the lives of the people of the north, who have seen the deterioration of infrastructures in the region in the past thirteen years – schools, hospitals, roads, manufacturing concerns and agricultural activities.  In the same vein, Dubai, England and Germany havestealthily entered the everyday lexicon of the poor, because on a daily basis he is told his chief executive is in one of the countries visiting either as a medical tourist or on vacation.

Watching the Yoruba elites unfold what they called Developmental Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) made me wish I had such focused leaders as our “rulers”.  The people of the old western region, despite their unmatched educational, infrastructural and developmental levels are still determined enough, committed enough and honest enough to think of a collective developmental agenda for their people without a thought as to whether the federal government will increase or decrease states’ share from the federation account, or even think that the oil wells may very soon dry or any force majeure.  Lagos State at a point in time during the Obasanjo presidency went for more than two years without its allocation for local governments.  We did not see Tinubu, the then Lagos State governor grovelling before Obasanjo or wailing for the release of what was rightfully theirs.  Yet northern leaders are begging Ali Baba (as in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) to increase their own share of the ‘loot’.  I am yet to read anywhere of a governor in the northunfolding plans on how to improve his state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).  

When countries like Vietnam, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan and even Japan with smaller land mass and population than the north, are tilling their soil andmaximising their human potentials to become economic powers, our leadership is making an issue out ofrevenue allocation.  Why should the allocation to northern states be increased?  What moral or fiduciary justification do Babangida Aliyu and his colleagues have to call for such a sacrilege?  Is he trying to turn every northerner into a servant because he is one?  We are already almajiris and parasites but to add servitude to the legion of our negatives will be too much for anyone to bear.  

My advice to Babangida Aliyu and those who clamour for more money to fund their consumerism is to put their acts together by exploring and exploiting the resources found in their respective domains, rather than looking down south for succour.  They should, for instance, come out with an agricultural blueprint that will take the north to at least back to the 1960s.  Ourpresent crop of leadership has succeeded in taking us into the 12th century and it appears that they are proud of their achievement.  They have spawned Boko Haram and turned its violence into a franchise.  I have always maintained that the Boko Haram is an offshoot of political thuggery created and nurtured by our leaders.  Such groups like the ECOMOG in Borno of Ali Sheriff and the Kalare of Goje’s Gombe can easily be turned into killer squads.  With no education or jobs and therefore nothing to live for, they could be available to any would be mischief-maker.  To people like this, whose hands are soiled with the blood of innocent political opponents, it is better to commit suicide than to remain hopeless.  With their principal employers now out of government houses, no “work” is readily available.

While the northern political leadership see nothing wrong in begging an increasingly recalcitrant Niger Delta militants for scraps, and while falling head over heels in trying to outdo each other in eulogising Ojukwu, a man directly responsible for the massacre of over a million souls and vicariously responsible for the total wipe-out of post-independence northern political and military leadership, the atrophied infrastructure of the north is bombed out of existence.  Do they really care about how the families of the Balewas, Sardaunas, Akintolas, Ogundipes, Maimalaris, Pams, Largemas et al, may be feeling.  While they were busy rewriting history by helping turn a rebel into a statesman, has it occurred to them that it is the same money they are complaining as being inadequate that will, if properly applied, turn the north into an economic Eldorado.

Our leaders are very comfortable importing rice from distant lands like Brazil and Thailand while our land lies fallow.  Let us not even talk about mineral resources.  Let us just assume we are not going to dig further than is necessary to plant a seed.  The north is blessed with vast arable land, with a rainfall of about 1000mm per annum, which is just right for farming, many rivers, lakes and streams and a population looking for what todo.  What are we doing with these God given resources? Nothing!  This crime is on a par with genocide, as far as I am concerned.  I am strongly of the opinion that resources should be controlled 100% by inhabitants of where the resources are located.  Northern governments and northerners should be denied access to any revenue accruing from oil sales so that we may be forced to look inwards.  

The South Africans extracted fuel from coal during the apartheid regime when sanctions were imposed on the country.  It is a proven fact that the north is literally awash with coal but since the advent of the ill-fated Lagos state/ ENRON IPP project up to this moment, no single northern state deemed it necessary to generate its independent power supply and, therefore, our economy is at the mercy of PHCN.  While most industries in the south can rely on gas as an alternative power supply, nothern industries had to fold up for lack of power.

Mr Jonathan, please if you can do us a favour – the northern lumpen, that is – STOP THE MONTHLY FEDERAL MONTHLY ALLOCATIONS.



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