By Dele Sobowale
“Lives of great men remind us that we can make our lives sublime; and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time”—HW. Longfellow, 1807-1882.
NOTE: Three former governors of the South South geo-political zone fought for the thirteen per cent derivation which has made it possible for almost rural state capitals like Uyo, Yenagoa and Asaba to now rival or even surpass long established capitals like Bauchi, Yola and Abeokuta today. Every Governor, Speaker, Commissioner and Local Government Council Chairman, as well as major contractors, not to talk of the people of oil producing states owes the three an everlasting debt of gratitude. Now, the leader of the group, Obong Victor Attah, the acclaimed Father of Modern Akwa Ibom State, is back again with fresh insights, ably supported by Chief James Ibori, as the nation embarks on the negotiation for RESTRUCTURING. Come and listen. April 25, 2018 is the date. Lagos is the place. Read on.
Stuck against my will at Abuja airport, on March 29, 2018 for nine hours, because Buhari was visiting the Centre of Excellence, I was forced to buy six papers. The GUARDIAN was the last and most of the news reports in it had been covered by some of the other newspapers. But, GUARDIAN had a unique column which to me is worth the cover charge all by itself. Dare Babarinsa, a veteran journalist and one of the best anywhere, anytime was writing on that day about three immortals of Nigerian journalism – Segun Osoba, Felix Adenaike and Peter Ajayi – known as the Three Musketeers. It will require at least three columns to explain to kids under fifty who the Three Musketeers were. Only those from the “Lost Generation”, as Professor Soyinka called us, would recollect them vaguely – if dementia had not set in.
But, even those born ten years ago can easily subscribe to the principles the three friends – called Three Musketeers – stood for. It was “all for one and one for all”. They were inseparable when fighting for the principles, invariably social justice and great journalism, to which they were committed.
Of the three great journalists, Peter Ajayi was the only stranger to me. Without my brother Felix Adenaike, the VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATION, which kept me from ending up in the poor house, would not have seen the light of day. Aremo Segun Osoba made his own contribution to another effort which kept me for more years from sleeping under the bridge. I was away in the USA when they were making their reputations as journalists in Nigeria, but, Babarinsa is a contemporary giant. So, if he says they were great; then they must be. What I can testify to is the fact that they are two of the dozen or so Nigerians, outside my family, for whom I have the highest esteem and owe un-payable debts of gratitude as long as life endures.
However, there was another group of three people, whose work together in 1999 to 2004/5 would entitle them to being called THE THREE MUSKETEERS OF RESOURCE CONTROL. The three former Governors of states in the South South Zone – Obong Victor Attah, Chief James Ibori and late AVM (rtd) Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Alams), with Attah leading – were the gladiators, who fought gloriously and won for all oil-producing states the right to 13 per cent derivation – without onshore/offshore dichotomy. Before going into the financial gains resulting for the entire Niger Delta region from their collective efforts, let me make some pertinent observations.
Nine states constitute the Niger Delta – Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. But, only the three former Governors championed the cause for RESOURCE CONTROL. The others were either indifferent or, as in the case of two (names withheld for now), they were actually hostile to the struggle. All the governors of the Niger Delta, in the Class of 1999 to 2007, were aware that President Obasanjo, a military man to the core, wanted the oil producing states to continue receiving one per cent derivation in order that more revenue might flow to Abuja. Obasanjo was the greatest enemy of RESOURCE CONTROL who the “Three Musketeers” had to fight. Left to OBJ, the Niger Delta States would have been poorer than they are now. One then wonders why some of them still welcome with open arms a man who never wished them well. Wait and read the book.
The fighters for justice also had to fight the enemies within the zone. These were two Governors who, hoping to succeed Obasanjo in 2007, were too eager to betray the people of the region for their inordinate ambitions. They actively sided with OBJ in his bid to keep the people down. Consequently, Alams, Ibori and Attah – leaders of the quest for justice – were targeted for destruction at all costs. This is not the time to go into details. But, we know what happened to Alams and Ibori. That was partly their punishment for daring to force the Federal Republic of Nigeria to transfer to the oil-producing states only a fraction of what under true federalism belongs to them.
By any measure known to mankind, Attah, Ibori and Alams were victorious; even though two of them paid terrible prices for their courage and doggedness. Every state and everybody in the Niger Delta owes then debts of gratitude that can never be repaid. Without them, the oil producing states would have been a lot poorer now. Both Akwa Ibom and Rivers states received over N1.3 trillion from 2007 to 2011, that is, 4 years – which was about two times the same states collected from 1999 to 2007 (8 years) on account of sharply increased derivation.
“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo, 1802-1885, in Histoire d’un crime (1852).
Fourteen years after the bar was raised from one per cent to thirteen the nation now agrees the three men were right all along and their adversaries belong in the dust bin of history. Restructuring is now an idea whose time has come. What ever else might be added, at the heart of restructuring is RESOURCE CONTROL. That was the title of a book published in 2004. The topic has been revisited and the book revised because fourteen years have provided sufficient evidence to prove that the struggle was just. The rest of us also now know, as a matter of fact, that thirteen per cent did not go far enough. But, with hostility from President Obasanjo, the oil producing states almost got nothing more than one per cent. On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, a revised and updated version of RESOURCE CONTROL will be launched. Attah and Ibori will be there. Only about 400 guests can be accommodated at this historic event. But everybody can join the struggle.
This is only the first notice…
FAILURE-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES?
“What we have now is failure. Never you reinforce failure. Let failure be failure. …The truth is this: when you have an ineffective and incompetent government, we are all victims. And don’t let anybody deceive you.” Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, speaking at his controversial presidential Library in Abeokuta.
Nobody will receive a prize for guessing who the Failure—In-Chief of the Armed Forces is. Baba Iyabo has simply increased to tempo and thunder attack against a government and its leader who have spent almost three years in office whining about challenges they met and pointing fingers of blame against the previous government as if this is the first government to inherit problems.
Seldom do I find myself in agreement with Obasanjo. But, he is right on the button on this one. Lucky is the manager who is called upon to help clean up a mess. Every little improvement he makes writes his/her name into the golden books of history. In 2015, my Fellow Nigerians and I thought we had such a leader. We supported him with everything at our disposal. I recall an article written to demolish Jonathan which almost brought the roof down on me. So passionate was I about the now Failure-In-Chief.
To Jonathan, I openly apologise. To Nigerians, I prostrate full length. I fully subscribe to OBJ’s dictum. I will not reinforce failure. Never.