South-South Presidency and Majority Dictatorship
A foreign writer Karl Maier passed a damning judgement on Nigeria in his book entitled: ' This House Has Fallen ,'. Karl Maier strongly believed that Nigeria had fallen and perhaps, for the absence of democracy, it had no hope coming up again. And taking a look at Nigeria presently, it does appear that there is total absence of underpinning moral values, respect for human rights and morality of leadership. Achebe also expressed similar pessimism about Nigeria . These great writers are not mistaken, but their analysis undermined the fact that, like other developing nation's, Nigeria can evolve an effective, virile and people-oriented leadership that provide good governance. The late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, had described Nigeria as "a mere geographical expression". They could not have been wrong if we consider that, placed side by side with other nations that attained independence at the same time, Nigeria had carried on like an airplane that has just been taken over by hijackers. For the past decade or so, the Niger Delta Region has assumed huge prominence, perhaps, second only to the Middle East in international discourse and oil diplomacy. The prominence accorded the Region may not diminish in a hurry, because of her contributions to the economy of Africa 's most populous country and OPECs sixth greatest oil producer. Oil production in Nigeria is permanently zoned to the Niger Delta Region, while the distribution and enjoyment of the oil and gas resources is the people are sustaining one Nigeria . Also, the host communities in the oil belt suffer ecological genocide as manifested in frequent oil spillages, gas flaring, sea shore erosion, earth tremors and their negative fallouts. These environmental problems are not zoned to non-oil producing communities.
Now, Nigeria is a very influential member of the oil cartel - the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. More than 90% of Nigeria 's crude oil is produced in the Niger Delta Region. While it may be true that if this Region sneezes the world oil market catches cold, a vast majority of majority of the population is poor, and the poverty index even worse in the core oil producing communities. The poverty level in the Region is so scandalous that government has failed in its duty to provide basic infrastructure and social amenities for the people. The stagnation of the Region is fast becoming part of the consciousness of the youths
It is in the Niger Delta Region that the definition of the clichÃ©' 'educationally disadvantaged States' makes meaning and they receive some marginal grants for that insult. In the past and now, every instrument of state power is used to legitimize the exploitation of the resources and alienation of those who own the resources. The Land Use Act of (1969) and the offshore Rents and Royalties Act are obnoxious laws but the continued existence of these laws led to several declarations including the Kaiama Declaration of 1998.
The Kaiama Declaration states that 'it is resource control alone that can make the people reclaim their dignity as a people' and this is the most genuine way of expressing the people's desire for political and economic emancipation. T he Kaiama Declaration revolves around the subject matter of resource control, and the ideology of resource control itself is inseparably related to the survival of the people of the Region including their environmental wellbeing. These challenges have not been addressed.
The Niger Delta crisis was triggered by issues verging on environmental injustice, economic exclusion and political marginalization. The Amnesty Programme which seeks to address the crisis have failed to remedy the fundamental causes of resource ownership and the constitutional flaws bothering on true federalism. The Land Use Act is still in force, the host communities are still contending with the infernos of hell, the peoples traditional means of livelihood have been snuffed out, even as poverty aggravates. The derivation principle has not been upped to 25% as recommended by the Leedum Mitee Committee. True federalism seems to have eluded the nation and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party appears to have forgotten that the Region is the main artery that pumps blood into the economy, as the Party leadership speaks with her tongue in cheek, confusing zoning with meritocracy ala good governance and partisan interest with majority dictatorship.
Another source of anger is the exclusion of the people from mainstream politics and economy of the nation. One of the factors that fuelled the crisis is the fact that the people were not given the opportunity to hold key positions at the centre. The situation is worsened by the sad reality that in Nigeria , those who hold political power are the same people in charge of allocating scarce economic values. Thus a people that suffer political marginalization simultaneously suffer economic marginalization. In a country where economic power is in the hands of the political bourgeoisie, how many core Niger Delta People in corporate Nigeria are controlling the commanding heights of the economy in banking, manufacturing, and industry?. The economic superstructure determines all other sub-structures.
Niger Deltans are equally relegated to the background in the oil industry. The excuse has been that they do not parade high calibre manpower like their counterparts in other parts of the country. The oil belt and Nigeria 's treasure trove has not produced any capitalist with serious money power to bankroll massive electioneering campaign for the Presidency. The arithmetic of zoning bandied about by the Peoples Democratic Party and some politicians will certainly undermine merit, democracy and good governance. The deliberate stifling of democratic norms is an aberration of the practice. Most of the statesmen in Nigeria have been pathetically been turned into politicians advocating ideologies that are strange to democratic ethos. Zoning or the apportioning of political portfolios to sections of the country is a practice that may be done within a political party but verily, it is not very healthy for good governance. No civilized nation in the world has elevated zoning as a standard practice. A nation like Nigeria , which has attained 50 years after independence should strive at good governance rather than embark on policies that alienate the minorities.
In Nigeria , the political system has created the most dangerous inequality of all, inequality of access to social services, inequality of economic might, and other subjective considerations. Admittedly, Nigeria is a complex nation and therefore dictating that certain situations and decisions be handled not wholly legalistically and mechanistically, but politically as well in order not to rock the boat, and the situation in Niger Delta provides the best example of that delicate balancing act. But a straightforward issues like telling the incumbent President to vie for the highest office of the land should not be subjected to crude politicking. I also believe that the refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan to declare his ambition is not only overheating the polity but also unnecessarily turning it into a political canon-fodder for mischief makers and sectional bigots to exploit and undermine our fragile national unity.
The elevation of zoning over e tribal bigotry at the expense of national interests, Nigeria is no more complex than other multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies that follow due process and rule of law in their domestic and international affairs. Constitutionalism and rule of law is the bedrock of national unity because it prescribes the parameters for the conduct of public affairs afore hand which the constituent units of the union had duly subscribed to and understand as the guiding or governing principles of public affair that the government of the day ought to implement without extraneous considerations. More than any country in Africa , Nigerian leaders seem to have learnt nothing from history. Babangida's bid for self-perpetuation was the hidden agenda behind the annulment of the June 12 elections in which the masses foisted their collective destiny. Under the maximum ruler, Abacha Nigeria attained a pariah status and was metaphorically abandoned by her Western friends. Now, those who robbed the nation of good governance - the democratic pretenders are now contesting the Presidency wearing the garb of democracy.
Democracy is predicated on the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal. Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity. Nigeria is a complex society that requires a balance of power and the imperatives of a South-South Presidency provides the best example of that delicate balancing act.
Let the Jonathan Presidency in 2011 be a compensation from the majority groups to people of the Niger Delta Region, first for the political support the Region has given the three majors in our 50 years of Nigeria's chequered political history and more importantly, for the enormous contributions of Region to the economic viability of the Nigerian State. Nigerians especially the major ethnic groups, should allow common logic rather than dictatorship prevail in this matter.
Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa