By Dele Sobowale
NOTE: The Commissioner of Information was sending his assault, written on behalf of the Government of Akwa Ibom, while Attah and Akpabio were in church on Christmas Day. The seven patriotic leaders, who started the peace process, as well as other Nigerians, must ask themselves: “what is the purpose of going to church if fighting continues during the service”?
“It ain’t the things you don’t know that cause the problem; it’s the things you think you know that ain’t so”. Ralph Waldo Emerson, I803-I882. (VANGUARD BOOK OF UOTATIONS p II7).
I started this series by giving the benefit of doubt to Governor Akpabio and Aniekan Umanah who lashed out at former Govrnor Attah in advertorials carried in all the leading newspapers; just two days after Attah and Akpabio attended service together to advance the reconciliation process.
I had explained my involvement in the peace process; now there is need to explain my involvement in the publication of “INSIGHTS INTO ONSHORE-OFFSHORE DICHOTOMY by H.E Attah – which was the reason Umanah surprisingly addressed his former boss and elder in language that is best left in the gutter.
Anyone reading that article, by Attah, will not find any reference to Akpabio. The only individuals mentioned were Awolowo, Gowon, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida and Abacha – all former Heads of State for their roles in tinkering with the derivation principle at various times in our history.
To be candid, governors have no place in this discussion except as beneficiaries or victims of what we eventually had done on this issue. “Only God knows why Umanah would reduce a fundamental issue involving all Nigerians to the mundane level of who cleared ground and roofed which building” – as one person who read his six page piece had reportedly remarked.
As everybody would recollect, the National Assembly, NASS, suddenly took the matter of constitutional review seriously in the third quarter of last year. Among the most controversial topics were the interrelated issues of revenue allocation, derivation and onshore-offshore dichotomy – the last in connection with oil production.
Northern leaders, represented by the governors of the nineteen states, embarked on a campaign to revisit the revenue allocation formula and to re-introduce the onshore-offshore dichotomy. One does not have to have been the Commissioner or the Secretary to the Government of any oil producing state to understand the financial implications for the states of the Niger Delta if dichotomy is re-introduced.
Obong Attah and I discussed the matter, and, I was the one who persuaded the former governor to intervene and help set the record straight before irreparable harm is done to the interests of oil producing states as well as mineral producing states in the future.
For the avoidance of any doubt, Victor Attah was the father of that section of the I999 constitution dealing with revenue allocation. As a member of Abacha’s Constitutional Conference, CONFAB as the media called it, in I995, Attah had placed the issue of derivation on the national agenda and had laid the foundation for what later became his singular campaign for RESOURCE CONTROL.
Though I had dismissed the CONFAB as a SHIP OF FOOLS in a column published when the CONFAB was inaugurated by Abacha, I nevertheless followed its proceedings. Right now, in my possession is the complete HANZARD of the proceedings which contains Attah’s landmark submissions. In the end the CONFAB recommended derivation WITHOUT REFERENCE TO DICHOTOMY.
Dichotomy, later introduced, was a sort of “gang-rape” of the minorities in oil producing states by the major tribes. It is also on record that Attah, almost single-handedly, fought for RESOURCE CONTROL and published a book to canvass for support for the position. I wrote the Foreword to the book, in which I asserted that if the oil had been in the Southwest, my people would have demanded for 50% derivation and would have got it or there would have been no Nigeria.
I still hold to that view. To me oil and mineral producing states deserve 50% derivation revenue; not I3%, and without the nonsense of dichotomy. That is a view persistently championed by Attah and it was in a bid to recall how we got where we are that he published that piece.
Permit me now to address, very briefly, the point Umanah labored so hard to make—in the, ill-disguised, attempt to polish the apple more than any other potential successor to Akpabio. I will even grant him the exaggerations about what Attah failed to accomplish in eight years in office while Umanah was a part of the government.
First, Attah’s government, in eight years, had a little bit over N450 billion to spend. Akpabio’s government in four years had over NI trillion i.e about two and half times. So where is the comparison? Furthermore, the over NI trillion was made possible by the singular effort of Attah to get the I3% derivation for oil producing states and the rising price of crude oil; for which no governor can claim credit, did the rest. If derivation had remained I% as Obasanjo would want it, little would have been achieved by any governor of Akwa Ibom.
Second, Umanah has probably never heard that, “Ideas are capital; the rest is money”. Both at home and abroad, the credit for a programme, or project, has always gone to the initiator not to those who financed or completed it. Two examples will illustrate the point.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo had become deified among Yoruba people for the Free Primary Education policy. Yet, the idea was not even his own. But, he accepted it and made it government policy in the old Western Region where he was Premier until I959.
Till today countless leaders have mounted the saddle in the Southwest and have spent enormous amounts of funds to sustain it. In fact, Oyo State, alone, now spends more money per annum than Awolowo spent in his years as Premier. But, the credit still, indisputably, goes to Awo.
Abroad, the American Moon Landing offers another example. When the Russians sent Yuri Gagarin, I934-I968, into space in I96I, John Kennedy, I9I7-I963, the 35th President of the US, announced, within hours, that “America will send a man to the moon and bring him back before the end of the decade [I970]”.
Kennedy was assassinated in I963, President Johnson provided the bulk of the funds for the moon project; the landing occurred in I969 when Nixon was President. Till today, and forever, the Moon Project will be credited to Kennedy.
So, even if all Attah did was to clear grass at the Uyo Airport, the Power Plant, the Le Meridien etc; they remain his ideas [read capital]. Everything else is money; and not personal money at that. It is the people’s money.
Let me end by making two statements. First, I find it hard to believe Governor Akpabio was aware that the piece was going to be published; it was most probably the brain child of Umanah. Second, even if His Excellency was aware of it, he can rest assured that there will never be any angry rejoinder from Attah and me.
We are committed to the reconciliation process and it would amount to a betrayal of a pledge to the departed First lady to turn back now. We are also aware that “Forgiveness to the injured does belong; for they ne’er pardon who have done the wrong”, John Dryden, I633-I700. (VANGUARD BOOK OF UOTATIONS p 63).
Perhaps, it is not too late to wish Governor Akpabio and his family a prosperous 20I3 and many more years of useful service to Nigeria. My appeal to him is, despite this error, to allow the reconciliation process to continue. That will be the best New Year gift to the people of Akwa Ibom.