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Derivation: Thank God for old men at Confab

By Dele Sobowale

“You are lucky you have a general who knows you – otherwise you would have been ruined a long time ago.” Phocion 402-318 B.C in Plutarch, 46-120 A.D, THE AGE OF ALEXANDER.

Indisputably one of the greatest historians ever, Plutarch brought us the story of the Athenian general – Phocion – who led his people to several victories – often acting against popular advice. Phocion later received the blessing of Mandela, who had this to say about leaders.

“There are times when a leader must move ahead of the pack; go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.” Left to the young “Turks” of the African National Conference, ANC, South Africa, shortly after the Madiba became President, would have driven out the whites and seized their properties.

But, Mandela, was more nationalistic and wiser. He knew what could ruin his nation and he was not going to promote such a policy. Phocion and Mandela had two things in common – they were old when monumental decisions affecting their nations had to be made; and they made them with everybody’s vital interest in mind. Compromise was the bedrock of those decisions.

Thank God, Nigeria is not without its share of wise and old men. When the list of delegates to the on-going National Conference was released, one of the strongest criticisms was the large number of “old” people. In fact, given the statements and positions being canvassed by various groups, in the run-up to the “CONFAB”, I was happy that hot-headedness was going to be held to the minimum.

The Power Devolution Committee, co-chaired by Architect (Obong) Victor Attah, former Akwa Ibom State Governor and Alhaji Coomasie, former Inspector General of Police, IGP, was bound to be the most explosive. The reason is simple. Our Federal Republic of Nigeria, since 1973, has been nothing more than “a geographical expression” based on sharing crude oil revenue.

Devolution of power was just another euphemism for wrangling over how we will continue to share the crude oil revenue. Of the two co-Chairmen, one, Attah, had been on record, since the 1994-5 CONFAB,for advocating RESOURCE CONTROL and a greater share of the oil revenue going to the oil producing states.

His co-Chairman, while not so publicly associated with a position on the matter, soon had that deficiency remedied by the Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Council of Elders and other groups who were adamantly opposed to derivation and who actually wanted existing concessions, granted to the states of the Niger Delta, reversed.

They had two powerful weapons on their side — The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a Supreme Court decision which appeared sacrosanct. Total and violent breakdown in communications or a stalemate were the only options available; and only wisdom would ultimately decide the outcome. Had the Power Devolution Committee ended in disarray, the CONFAB would also have closed shop long ago. That was how vital that committee was. Thank God for old men; the CONFAB continues.

The heroes of this minor miracle include the co-Chairman, already named, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Professor A.B.C. Nwosu – former Federal Minister of Health. As Winston Churchill, 1874-1965, said, under different circumstances, “Never in the history of human conflict, had so many owed so much to so few.”

Given a well prepared assault on the status quo by the North, including a document which was a parody of propaganda, aimed at reversing all the gains the Niger Delta had made since 1999, it is remarkable that the unprepared and negligent South South emerged unscathed after all the attempts to reduce its revenue substantially.

Let me illustrate what could have happened if the North has had its way with two oil producing states – Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa. Reducing derivation from thirteen per cent to five per cent would have meant, at first, going down from N25 billion a month to N9 billion for AKS and for Bayelsa from N19 billion to N7.32 billion.

With the re-introduction of the onshore/offshore dichotomy, AKS revenue allocation will dwindle to less than N500 million a month and that of Bayelsa about the same amount. In addition, the NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry would have been scrapped and the Amnesty Programme would have come to a halt –with several hundred students stranded at home and abroad.

These were among the most obvious calamities averted. But, these are only economic in nature. In reality, these old men averted a greater calamity than what can be measured in terms of naira and kobo. They saved lives and Nigeria. How? Then answer these questions.

Does anybody in his right senses expect the people of Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa, as well as other oil producing states, to meekly accept seventy to ninety per cent reduction in their revenue allocation without provoking another secession bid; this time spreading across the South?

And when the war of secession starts, can anybody tell us, in advance, what the costs will be – in lives, properties and hopes destroyed?
Thank God for the old men who saved us from ourselves.

P.S. Part 2 of the series on Chibok will continue next week. This is urgent business. Thank you.


“Nothing in the world is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo, 1802-1885. (BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 96).

The call for a Christian governor in Lagos State in 2015 started on this page in May 2011. Some readers reacted with hostility; others with derision; and many with alarm. Today, it is a reality. People who could not have summoned the courage to throw their hats into the ring are now candidates. Was it prophecy? You decide.

However, like most events which have a humble beginning, and which gained momentum, some of those who were originally opposed to it are hustling to cash in on the matter. One of the candidates recently launched a book during which his hand was raised by one of the traditional rulers in Lagos State.

Unfortunately, the candidate had received the endorsement of a traditional ruler who would not want to see a Christian candidate emerge. Fortunately, the Oba rules over one of the least populated areas in Lagos State. Anybody who wants to know how thinly populated Lagos Island is should come on a Sunday. Kabiyesi’s influence does not cross the lagoon – thank God for that.

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