By Ochereome Nnanna
At last, the leaders of the Niger Delta region as symbolised by the governors of the six South-South States, have decided to wake up from their self-imposed slumber.
They have decided to react to the series of insulting pronouncements and policy measures, which the government of President Umar Musa Yarâ€™ Adua has been assembling of late, especially in the oil industry. These measures are being taken in a manner as if to spite the people of the oil producing areas even as efforts are being made to persuade its militants to accept the so-called amnesty offer.
On Thursday, July 23, 2009, all governors of the six states: Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa, Liyel Imoke of Cross River and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, met in Asaba and served notice of their intention to pull out of the amnesty deal over these unfortunate and unfeeling policies, which tend to sweep aside the interests and sentiments of the people of the oil bearing zone of Nigeria.
No sooner had Yarâ€™ Adua assumed power than he started to implement his agenda of Northernisation of the financial and oil sectors. With the recent appointment of Malam Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the North, which already had tucked away in its pocket the Finance, National Planning and Auditor-General portfolios had effectively cornered the nationâ€™s purse.
Ordinarily, one should not worry about who is holding what office so long as the person is qualified and appointments meet the constitutional requirement of federal character and spread.
One would not bother if such appointments begin to result in effective service delivery that impact positively on the lives of the average citizen as the days of Ngozi Iweala, Charles Soludo, Nenadi Usman and others in that area did. Rather than this, all we have seen is a growing tendency to poor quality performance and sudden increase in our foreign debt profile, which the House of Representatives last week rose in unison to condemn.
With regard to the petroleum sector, Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s Northernisation policy became evident in the manner he appointed one Northerner after the other as the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He exhumed an industry fossil, Dr. Rilwan Lukman, to return as the nationâ€™s Petroleum Resources Minister. Odein Ajumogobia, who has been in the administration from day one as junior Petroleum Minister, remains as such.
He was apparently a haughty concession to the Ijaw, because their militant youths were troubling the oil infrastructure of the nation under the auspices of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
Many people wondered what new contribution Lukman was going to make to advance the industry, given the fact that during his long years in the same and other portfolios under the General Babangida regime, he was not seen as a great barrier breaker in the mould of Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, the father of deregulation; Major General Mamman Kontagora, the soldier on roads and infrastructure and Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, the chief preserver of the primary health of the nation.
Lukman warmed his bench as a prince of the North and went away without leaving anything behind for which we have missed him. His second coming to the Petroleum portfolio at Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s invitation puzzled many. What magic was he going to bring back to an industry that feeds the idle and parasitic elites of Nigeria? Recently, Lukman answered the question.
He was here to complete what many now see as a sectional agenda. The first was the introduction of a petroleum Bill to the National Assembly, which Governor Amaechi openly criticised as being against the interest of the oil producing areas. Reports have it that there are many versions of the Bill, and that the one Lukman presented to stakeholders in a recent meeting in Abuja was different from the one in the public domain.
Fears are being entertained that the National Assembly could pass one Bill while the authorities could sign another version into law.
The second Lukman initiative, which is the subject of anger not only among Niger Delta people but also any well-meaning person, is the decision of the Presidency to reverse the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute in Effurun, Warri to a university status approved by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In its place, Lukman is pushing for the establishment of a petroleum university in Kaduna where senior managers will be raised for the future administration of the oil industry.
When added to the proposed Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) headquarters plus the NNPC headquarters in Abuja the N14 billion university and the Kaduna Refinery will combine to enable the North command the backbone of the oil industry.
Those who argue that it does not matter where these institutions are sited are playing to the gallery because we know that the â€œcatchment areaâ€ factor gives dominance to local manpower.
When people from the Niger Delta and other Nigerians raised their voices in protest, government sources were quoted by Vanguard of Thursday, July 23, 2009 as saying: â€œThose who do not want the project to be sited in the North should have a rethink because there is absolutely nothing they can do to change governmentâ€™s decisionâ€.
Later in the story, Lukman made arrogant, baseless and contradictory defence of the policy which makes Warri the training ground for junior staff while Kaduna becomes the training arena for oil industry managers.
The government source said there is â€œabsolutely nothingâ€ anyone can do about this provocative move by sectional hawks to transfer the theatre of control of the oil industry to the North.
That is because people of the oil producing areas have not been able to put their acts together in the right manner to claim their rights.
Ijaw leaders are busy trying to assume the position of regional masters. To achieve this, they run to the North in pursuit of a â€œtraditional allianceâ€, a master/servant arrangement that only gives a few jobs to their sons and daughters which Yarâ€™Adua has done.
They ethnicised the issue and hit indiscriminately at real and imagined enemies (like the misguided hit on Atlas Cove Jetty), thus isolating themselves to be preyed upon.
Here is hoping that the regional governors of the South-South will take up the challenge thrown by those who say there is absolutely nothing they can do.
The Asaba resolution, if pressed home, is liable to halt the growing arrogance of sectional hawks whose only interest in Nigeria is the control of her finance, oil resources and the defence sectors. They are only interested in getting as much as they can from Nigeria to their region, but not in governing it properly and making something good out of it.