I disagree with Gov. Muazu Babangida Aliyu
By OkekeIzuchukwu Job
According to governor Aliyu, the poverty in the northern Nigeria is partly traceable to the meager resources accruing to these states from the federation account. He faulted the sharing formula which gives the oil states extra funds to oil states at the expense of other states in the federation. He contends that the obvious development in these southern states is down to the extra funds accruing to them.
It’s been a long time I wrote even on my blog. Sad, because a lot has happened within this period I was in the wilderness. But, the fact is that time was a factor that often militated against me. However, today I have to write, once again, because I heard news I cannot just ignore; that my adorable governor of Niger state, Chief Servant MuazuBabangidaAliyu has criticized the Nigerian revenue sharing formula which he said favoured the oil states so much.
Many of my friends in the media and among Nigerian writers know how much I adore and respect His Excellency, the Chief Servant of Niger. For one, he is one person who does not shy from real issues. He does not fail to criticize either himself or his colleagues: fellow governors or politicians especially of northern extraction. A rare man of courage, he is the only one among the governors ‘indicted’ by Boko Haram recently who failed to apologize to the daredevil group.
I have been in a number of public events where Aliyu chided the politicians of the north for their roles in impoverishing their people. He always spoke with a lot of convictions and reason. But now, MuazuBabangidaAliyu is singing another song. I cannot say how and why governor Aliyu suddenly came to the conclusion that revenue sharing formula is the bane of development in the north. In this, governor Aliyu has defaulted. He cannot be right.
First of all, Governor Aliyu and the rest of us know that it is actually an abnormality of the Nigerian state for states like Zamfara to look to share from resources of Akwa-Ibom, or Yobe queuing to share from the resources of Lagos. This is supposed to be a Federal System of government, where states control their resources. If this were so, if Nigeria is practicing true federalism, does it mean these states would relocate to the South-south or cease to exist?
Yet, I cannot entirely say that the sharing formula has been a problem. The northern states still get their fair share of the nation’s resources. The so-called oil states are only 8 in number, the South-south states plus Ondo, Imo and Abia. And the extra fund they get is shared based on the ratio of fund accruing to the country from each state. In essence, the states do not get equal amount, it varies; and sometimes some of the states just collect a marginal addition compared to their northern counterparts.
Since over the years the northern states have been coming to the Federal and collecting their share of the nation’s resources, it is important to ask, anyway, what has happened to all the money the states have been collecting? The state of development in these northern states, is it equivalent to the amount of money their governors—past and present—have been collecting from federation account. The answer is practical no. The governors—in fact almost the northern politicians and elites—have held their region by the jugular. The states are their fiefdom. The resources of a state are meant for all the citizens, in Nigeria they are meant for a few but in the north they are meant for specific families. They collect it and share at will. This set of families; hegemonic, aristocratic, indolent and profligate, live off the resources of the rest of the people. They marry among one another, they share chieftaincy titles, they select rulers from among themselves. The keep a harem of wives and their children have the best of western education, while the rest have little or nothing. They travel abroad to cure headache while the rest of the population have no medical facility to look to. They know themselves. Nigeria is good to the extent that they are collecting the resources and wasting it themselves and their families. And whenever they are forced out of the teat of Nigerian resources, they make their enclave ungovernable.
The reality in northern Nigeria therefore is an irony, of a tiny minority living off the resources of the rest. What this points to is that even if the resources of Nigeria are brought on a table, shared perfectly equally, the north will not change from what it is. The few eating will continue to eat.
Since I was born I have known the common Hausa man. He was Aboki; the tinker who the whole hamlet waited months on end to come by and repair all the broken pans and buckets. He was the shoe-shiner, water-fetcher, street-hawker, well-digger, cloth-mender. He spoke no more than Hausa, yet this did not deter him from crossing the Niger into the interior Igbo or Yoruba land to provide his services. In all his menial duties, working as patiently as dumbly, he is honest in all his dealings. Those who sojourned to your village were never likely to get involved with stealing or anything dishonorable. He was aboki, but he was only mindful of his business.
It is sad, however, that over the years, the northern leadership has refused to think for Aboki and his progenies. They ignored him in his quest to eke out better life. They told him Quranic education is the best for his children. And down from three generations, Aboki’s family is still recycling illiteracy, ignorance and poverty. Right as we are talking, Aboki’sgeneration has yet to start benefitting from the resources accruing to their states. He is still a spectator 51 years after independence. If the northern elite had thought Aboki to be one of them, a shareholder in the commonwealth of their states, by now, Aboki’s generation would have proper education and capacity to compete and contribute optimally in the emerging Nigeria.
What is sad is that this project of training Aboki’s generation had taken off in the first republic. Suddenly there was a reversal. Those who benefitted from those first efforts by Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, having crossed the bridge and joined the elites of today had ensured the bridge is broken. What can I say more? The poverty in the north is manmade, a product of years of systemic and systematic pauperization of the people.
Then again, I want to ask, what would have happened if North and South were not amalgamated? Or better put, do Niger Republic, Benin Republic or Mali now have to wait for oil to plan for their people? Northern Nigeria is not entirely lacking in resources. There used to be the mythical Kano groundnut pyramid. Not only groundnut; the savanna climate can support a whole lot of cash crops, so that if the northern governors just pay a little attention to agriculture, it is just enough to rescue the region from poverty.
Again I ask, if the northern governors keep eyeing the oil money, when will they sit down and think about how to develop the region? Now there is clamour for return to true federalism. If this happens, where will the north be? Even if that doesn’t happen, oil is an exhaustible resource, one day it will cease to flow; if not this year, next, ten, twenty or hundred years. Yet, even if it did not stop to flow, more nations are discovering oil. Sierra Leone and Liberia just discovered, joining Ghana and Niger Republic just in West coast of Africa alone. Also, the West is intensifying effort to producing alternative energy to fossil fuel. With green energy revolution almost certain to be, is it time to continue talking of reliance on oil?
Niger where Chief Servant has held forth for many years is recently rated one of the poorest in Nigeria in a recent release by the Federal Bureau of Statistics. Many fans of His Excellency are becoming skeptic that he is only making noise. He has made little or no difference in terms of infrastructural development of the state. He should therefore seek—same like all other northern governors—what to do with the resources accruing to the state now than sulking over what other states get. At the end of his tenures, he will be judged by what he got, not what he did not get. May be I am wrong.