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‘hegemonists‘ within the country called Nigeria

By Adisa  Adeleye
HEGEMONY in political parlance would refer to ‘leadership exercised by one state‘ especially in a Federation or Confederation. 

History reminds us of the example of Prussia in the conglomeration of German states in the 19th Century and how a great leader, Bismark outwitted all in making his Prussian State strong militarily and stronger, economically.  The Prussian spirit was quite evident in the Germany of today – strong and prosperous.

It is obvious that the Nigerian history is replete with the experience of how the Northern Region has tried to exercise political leadership over the other Southern Regions before Independence and, how after 1960, some Northern States as a ‘block‘ continued to exercise the assumed ‘Leadership role‘ in a fashion not regarded by observers as in the best interest of the country.  Simply, it is often being regarded as unenlightened selfish interest by other enlightened Nigerians.

A recent case in point is the reported statement by the former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, warning the Federal Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) not to touch Section 144 of the Constitution _  a section which has something to do with the capability of the ailing President.  Mallam Adamu‘s argument appears strange to the extent that enquiring by Nigerians about the health of their President ‘would amount to inflicting pain on the personality of the President‘.  Would Mallam Adamu have reasoned like that if the ‘invisible‘ President had been a Southerner ? Definitely not.

Analysts who are looking for sources of instability in the Nigerian political system should re_read Mallam Adamu‘s statement on the zoning system of his party. It reads painfully; ‘the zoning arrangement is something which we, the people who formed the party discussed and came to a conclusion which we believe will serve the interest of this country better.

The emphasis on we becomes more vague if the wider interest of Nigeria is envisaged. The statement further reads, ‘after the death of General Sani Abacha‘, the wily Mallam continues,‘ it was we, people from this part of the world, or this part of Nigeria who decided that the next President should come from the South and we agreed that the rotation should be between north and south.  It was the way events developed in the South that produced General Olusegun Obasanjo as the President and he was to act as President for two terms, and when he tried to extend his period, he met our resistance‘. And

Mallam Adamu Ciroma concluded,‘ the Party has said the North would retain power‘  If the powerful Northern block has spoken through the candor of Mallam Ciroma, the fight for electoral reforms becomes laughable and unnecessary.

The ‘Northern block‘ that anointed Obasanjo and provided him with a political platform (raw from his Ota farm), and also produced ailing Yar‘Adua, is waiting to provide his successor through the same process _ voting through faulty electoral system.

Nigerians should underrate Mallam Adamu Ciroma at their own peril.  The Mallam, a cold and calculating politician, a History graduate of Ibadan University is a beloved son of the old conservative Northern block.

He was stubborn and wielded a mighty pen in his fiery journalistic days.  As an Assistant Secretary in Petroleum Resources Ministry, he was moved to Kaduna as the Editor of ‘New Nigerian‘ _ a powerful voice of the North.  Without training in Journalism, he was surrounded by a Northern Yoruba production outfit led by lat Rasak Aremu – a gifted craftsman.

With Adamu Ciroma at the editorial desk in ‘New Nigerian‘, the war of ‘uniform Price of Petroleum Products‘ was bitterly fought and won not for Nigeria, but for the North and the consequences of that wrong policy are with us today in the, culminating drama of Deregulation.

For the understanding of the chaos in the downstream sector of the oil industry, I would quote relevant paragraphs on ‘pricing of refined petroleum products‘ from my book, The ‘Thunderbolt‘ published in 2002.  ‘The present problems of instability in the prices of white oils – gasoline (PMS) diesoline (AGO) and dual purpose kerosene (DPK) could be traced back to the late 1960s when the Northern elites started to clamour for uniform prices for all petroleum products and electricity tariffs.

The enlightened advocates of a policy of ‘uniform price‘ at that time were Mallam Adamu Ciroma, former editor of New Nigerian Newspapers (immediate past Finance Minister); Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, former Chairman of Northern Marketing Boards (ex Sultan of Sokoto) and Professor Ishaya Audu, a former Vice_Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

‘Hitherto, prices of various petroleum products were agreed with government agencies by the local oil companies.  On local products, each company would buy crude oil, refine to specification at the refinery (owned by government, B.P and Shell but managed by B.P) and pay agreed processing fees.

‘The price fixing‘ was based on ex refinery cost (cost of crude and processing fees), handling charges, depot maintenance and equipment; government tax (where applicable) and transportation cost.  The agreed pump price would have included all elements necessary to sustain the profitability of each company‘

‘However, the scene changed with the clamour for a uniform price regime throughout the country.  The main argument was sentimental and specious as no distinction was made between the main products and industrial fuels.  As a leader writer in one of the issues of ‘New Nigerian‘ puts it, ‘petrol price differentials constitute one of the running sores in the social and economic life of this country.

Other strong arguments canvassed in the North were:  that there should be no justifiable ground for discrimination in respect of prices of essential commodities because of geographical locations of areas; more rapid industrialisation if cheap fuel and electric power is available throughout the country.  Uniform price of fuels and electricity throughout Nigeria would ensure even economic development and equality of public and general welfare‘

‘The craze for ‘uniform price‘ in the north was so high that the average Northerner associated the lack of widespread industrial development to petroleum price differentials‘  All attempts at the period to convince the North on the problems of uniform price proved abortive.

I (working with an Oil Company‘ discussed with Mallam Adamu Ciroma and some senior civil servants in Kaduna that supply of petroleum products alone would not explain the location of industries in the country as there were other complimentary factors, such as abundant materials, cheap labour, good roads, ready market, transportation cost.

Also, differential prices of petroleum products like other commodities may be due to transportation costs as goods move from the supply points.

In spite of stronger economic arguments, the pressure of the Northern lobby was too much for the government to handle.  The advocates of uniform price had their way through Petroleum Decree of 1975 (as amended by Decree 32 of 1989).  Thus, the government became for the first time, the fixer of prices of petroleum products through the NNPC which was given the sole responsibility of ensuring the smooth operations of the Decree.  Oil depots were built and storage facilities provided in many States while the Petroleum Equalisation Fund was established to sort out the financial aspects.

Today, uniform price could hardly be maintained anywhere with ease;  it has broken down long time ago in the North inspite of billions of naira spent to ensure regular supply of petroleum products.


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