By John Owubokiri
It was commentators from the South of Nigeria who served the Northern political elite their first helping of hubris: they were told in commentary after commentary that they were far more nimble than their Southern counterparts and that they had perfected a sophisticated strategy to retain and control political power at the national level.
Events have shown that while the observations were a clarion call for some, to others it was a concession made and accepted. The difference in attitude to the political situation notable essayists commented upon have seen some break through a political stranglehold and others stagnated in self-deceit, frustration and desperation.
The events that foreshadowed the swearing in of President Jonathan and later acts of violence unleashed on the country by a religious sect from the North, Boko Haram, can now be seen as chips placed on the table to sway negotiations for secretly desired political concessions.
For sure, even the most ardent supporters of Boko Haram know that to concede the presidency perpetually to Muslims is an idiotic demand which would, in the very unlikely event of its implementation break up the pretentious bonds of federalism that many in the federation have borne with disdain from the very beginning.
To be fair to the ascetic field operatives of Boko Haram, a review of the Revenue Allocation formula was not on their cards but it is one of a few political concessions desired by the faceless puppeteers of Boko Haram. From Maiduguri, Kano, Abuja, Damaturu to Jos Boko Haram has been trailed by its special brand of preachment: bombs and death! They have threatened and carried out threats to violate the peace of target locations and thereby planted fear in the hearts of the citizenry.
With the political leaders of our country freezing with the fear of having their opulent existence shattered into horrific dimensions, the powerful Northern establishment began to enter the planned denouement to this simplistic political drama that was lifted from a disused Machiavelli script.
First was the revelation in an interview granted to a London newspaper by Mallam Lamido Sanusi, that the violence in Northern Nigeria had its roots in the imbalance of the Revenue Allocation Formula. Even before the dust had settled down upon his dangerous and baseless theorising, Malllam Sanusi, governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, donated a whopping N100m of Nigerian money to victims of Boko Haram’s bombing campaigns in his home state of Kano!
This event, greeted by the customary silence of a retiring presidency, has emboldened Northern governors to show their hands at last by their recent demand for a review of the Revenue Allocation formula that is the ingenious creation of Nigeria’s brand of federalism.
On page 7 of The Punch of Friday, February 24, chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu called for a review of the Revenue Allocation formula, hinting that “…there are other issues that would come. For example, there were oil wells that were over 200 kilometres away of the shore of the country…supposed to be oil wells for the whole country.”
It is obvious that the Northern governors are not grateful for the fact that they have enjoyed the bounty of the oil wells of Southern Nigeria only upon the charitable allowance of the oil producing states of this country. The history of the Revenue Allocation Formula they seek to review commenced with the appropriation in 1969 of the oil rights of owner communities and states by the Gen. Gowon administration on temporary basis to enable it prosecute the civil war.
Before then, derivation had been 100%. After the civil war, military administrations were reluctant to give back what they all now saw as a ‘national’ resource.
While the people of the Niger Delta are demanding a return to the status quo entrenched by the Richard’s Constitution of 1946 (reflected in the 1960 Independence Constitution) which gave assurances of independence to all the ethnic nationalities of the country before they agreed to be joined in a federation, Dr. Babangida Aliyu and his cohorts are decrying the huge sums they are getting from the scorched fields of the Niger Delta by virtue of rogue provisions in Nigerian law.
Yes, the Revenue Allocation formula would eventually be reviewed but not to reflect the unholy aspirations of the Northern governors but the true ownership of the Resources and it would not matter then how many bombs are strewn around this beautiful land or how many threats issue from the quarters of a greed-propelled establishment.