Ordinarily, we would ignore Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso’s latest outburst to the effect that states in the South-South receive more from the Federation Account than their counterparts in the North and therefore are becoming wealthier in the face of a North that is fast descending into penury. The man’s obsessive preoccupation with the distribution of federally-collected revenues and the derivation funds that go to oil-bearing states of the South-South is well-known.
Governor Kwankwaso’s position on derivation
But these are no longer ordinary times for Nigeria. And, his unhealthy fixation with the oil wealth of the South-South notwithstanding, Dr Kwankwaso is no ordinary Nigerian. In addition to being an educated man, he is a two-time governor of an important state in Nigeria and has served variously as a member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a Federal Parliamentarian and Minister of Defence! If left unchallenged (at every turn, whenever he voices it), his prejudice against the South-South might confuse less-exposed Nigerians who could then be tempted to accept his faulty and ahistorical postulations as gospel truth.
It may even be the case that Dr Kwankwaso, who should know better, is hoping for precisely such an outcome; deploying the time-honoured propaganda tactic that a false or irrational argument, if proclaimed loudly and often enough, can begin to take on the ring of truth and reason.
More funds allocated to the S/South States? No
Governor Kwankwaso needs to be told if he does not know, or reminded in the event that his memory has failed him, that states in the South-South have not been allocated more funds than their Northern counterparts out of the random favouritism or magnanimity of a benevolent father-figure living somewhere in the arid emptiness of Kano State. Rather, what the South-South states receive derives legitimately from the resource that is exploited at great discomfort to their citizens within their territories. More to the point, South-South states share of federally-collected revenues is MANDATED by the supreme law of the land; the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why and how this simple fact has failed to sink home in certain quarters of Nigeria is a testimony to greed-induced obduracy.
13% devrivation not responsible for backwardness of the North
And just how much is the revenue that the Kwankwasos of this world; the Junaid Mohammeds and Babangida Aliyus are bellyaching about? Thirteen per cent. A mere, insignificant 13 per cent of the revenue that is obtained by a supposedly federal Nigeria from the South-South states is now being held responsible for the backwardness of Northern states! If ever a dog had to be given a bad name in order to draw and quarter it, this clearly is it.
Why was there no significant development in the North before derivation?
The one question that Northern leaders who carry on like Dr Kwankwaso have consistently failed to address is why the North did not record any significant developmental lead over the South-South or even the rest of the country, in the years when oil-bearing states were not getting 13 per cent from the Federation Account. After all, of the 52 years that Nigeria has functioned as an independent political entity, the South-South has received 13 per cent derivation funds only for barely 9; not even a quarter of the period.
Besides, before there was oil in significant volumes, there had been cotton, groundnut, tin, columbite, hides and skins, etc. and the North received, NOT 13 per cent, but 50 per cent of revenue therefrom! The illogicality of the Kwankwaso position that it is the payment of 13 percent as derivation revenue to South-South states that has underdeveloped the North, never fails to astound.
Pass the test of fairness and reason
Precisely because they are the unfortunate outcome of befuddled thinking, all the arguments that Northern leaders have advanced to justify their attempt to deny due recompense to oil-bearing communities have failed the simple tests of reason and fairness. The country has been told that since the funding of early oil exploration in Nigeria came from federally-sourced revenues, the North must hold a perpetual lien on all subsequent oil revenues. But this claim is patently false. Everybody knows that the terms and conditions of the earliest oil prospecting concessions involved no federal funding; not even in kind by way of rudimentary infrastructure.
Which is why the likes of Shell had to build roads, bridges and jetties to get to where the oil could be drilled. Besides, even if federal funding had been involved, the South-South contributed its fair share to the federal purse. Never a resource-poor region, the country earned as much from the palm produce (oil and kernel), timber, rubber, cocoa and marine produce of the South-South as it did from whatever the North had to offer. We have also heard the even more laughable argument that the oil wealth of the South-South came from the flora and fauna of the North that died years ago and were swept down to the south and deposited there as crude oil! In response to which the South-South could argue that such flora and fauna would not have lived in the North in the first place if the moisture-laden winds from the South had not made their existence possible.
Why bullying will not work
All of which go to show clearly that the Kano State governor and many others who think like him do not believe that they owe the country a sensible argument (even though none exists) to justify the abrogation of the current revenue allocation arrangements. Having decided that they want, or should have, what the Constitution and nature have given to the South-South, Northern leaders of their ilk have decided, like the schoolyard bully, to go all out and take it; fact, logic and reason be damned! People like Kwankwaso are probably entitled to indulge in the favourite pastime of dreaming about getting their grasping hands on the 13 per cent derivation funds of South-South States. What they are NOT entitled to; what we must quickly and firmly disabuse their minds of, is that they can bully the rest of the country into returning to the dark, unjust past when the insult of the wholesale deprivation of the South-South was heaped on the injury of our oil-polluted land.
Of course, the typical bully is not given to much introspection. So it may well be that the Northern leaders who want to get their hands on the oil wealth of the South-South, by any means possible, have not thought long and hard about the consequences and timing of their manouvres and utterances. They would be well-advised to do so. The heydays of feudalism are long gone. The South-South will resist, and, in fact, repel any attempt to foist an inequitable revenue allocation formula on Nigeria.
The injustice from Kano
Is it not ironic that the Governor of Kano State is a leader of the “reverse 13 per cent” movement? Perhaps the man has yet to hear of the adage that those who live in glass houses should be careful with stones. The truth is that if any state in Nigeria does not deserve what it gets from the Federation Account, that state is Kano. Nigerians, including Kwankwaso himself, know that the population claims of Kano State (and the reason it was allocated the highest number of local government areas in the country) are bogus in their entirety – a consequence of the arbitrariness of military junta regimes. Yet its alleged high population and huge number of local government areas form the bases for the monies that go to Kano State from the general pool. The rest of the country and the South-South in particular have so far elected to overlook the gross injustice of this underserved preferment. Maybe it is because Kano State, even the entire North, has been allowed to get away with their decidedly bogus population claims that the likes of Dr Kwankwaso have been emboldened to set their sights on the patrimony of the South-South. Sooner or later, the truth will be out about Kano and other states whose population claims defy every verifiable demographic tendency. The South-South will not accept any constitutional amendment and/or other legislation that does not address this injustice.
The point has been made elsewhere and at various times, but bears repeating here, that, not too long ago, the revenue-sharing formula between the federating units of this country was 50 per cent. If, at 56, Governor Kwankwaso can feign ignorance of this elementary fact of Nigerian history, surely he is sufficiently educated to have read it up? People of the South-South know well enough that the reason 50 per cent derivation formula was satisfactory to his predecessors in Northern leadership whereas a mere 13 per cent is now verboten to Kwankwaso’s generation is to be found in the fact of crude oil and its current prevalence in the South-South. Time was when even customs duties were duly paid to the federating units to which the imported items were consigned. Northern leaders of the time vigorously defended their region’s right to 50 per cent of whatever the country earned from their territory. It is nothing if not a sign of the indolence of the current crop of Northern leadership that their predatory sights have refused to focus on the vast, untapped wealth begging to be exploited in their own backyard.
Thank goodness there are still people like Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State in the North who have stoutly defended resource control by local communities and states and the urgent need to look beyond oil to more creative solutions to the problem of Nigerian underdevelopment.
Unfortunately, the Kwankwosos of the North still see themselves as lords and masters of Nigeria and the oil wealth of the South-South as theirs to plunder as of right. To them, the events of the last 20 years did not happen; the North, they are wont to believe, continue to exercise a veto over the fate of Nigeria in general and South-South in particular. Nothing else explains the arrogance and insensitivity with which they have taken to approaching issues that border on national cohesion.
50% Derivation is non-negotiable
They are welcome to their illusions. For us in the South-South, the word needs to go out. The bad old days of unmitigated oppression of oil-bearing states and communities are gone, and gone for good. A return to true federalism and 50 per cent revenue allocation formula remain non-negotiable conditions for our long-term participation in the Nigerian project. We are not, have never been and have had good cause not to be, desperate to be part of Nigeria. So until our minimum conditions are met, our belief in Nigeria must remain tenuous, at best. To paraphrase Marx, we have nothing to lose but exploitative ties to a national contraption dominated by a myopic elite that have stubbornly refused to be dragged into the 21st century.