•Harps on only way Nigeria can have peace, development
•Says El Rufai has done the job for Omo Agege
•Says no matter how wide the gate of heaven is Frederick Lugard will never get there
By Jimitota Onoyume
Professor Godini Darah is a vocal voice on agitations for fiscal federalism in Nigeria. He was former Chairman , Editorial Board of the Guardian and currently the Delta state Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, a body at the forefront of campaign for restructuring of the Nigerian federation along the lines of fiscal federalism.
In this interview he speaks extensively on expectations from the Senate Review committee on some portions of the 1999 constitution headed by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Senator representing Delta central.
WHAT are your expectations from Senator Ovie OmoAgege’s Committee?
Senator Omo Agege’s committee is given the assignment to take a look at aspects of the Nigerian 1999 constitution to be reviewed. The title is important, they did not say constitutional amendment committee, they say review. In the English language review simply means take a look at it. When they say Amendment , it already sends you on an assignment , that there are errors, there are short comings there.
We pray for them to have the courage and sagacity of mind to extend the mandate of their assignment to review and identify sections that should be expunged. If review is just to polish, it will bring no comfort to Nigerians.
The work of the Omo-Agege’s committee had been made easy by previous works done by other committees. For the All Progressives Congress, APC, the Omo-gege “s committee duty has been well served by the Nasir Elrufai”s committee that was targeted at a political matter.
Fortunately for Nigeria, and I can say unfortunately for APC, the Elrufai”s committee adopted the radical recommendations of the 2014 national conference on devolution of powers , resource ownership and control, derivation principles and overall political engineering of restructuring the Nigerian system to make it serve the purpose of a federal system.
What Nigeria runs now is a unitary empire system, which concentrates enormous powers at the centre exercised by the President of the country. Those powers are so gigantic and gargantuan that even an angel cannot exercise them in a manner that will be fair and just. Those powers were defined by military dictators who were tyrants and tyrants don’t respect freedom, they don’t respect fair play. They don’t know what justice is, they recognize only conquest and control.
The 1999 constitution is a bad copy of the result of General Sanni Abacha’s conference in 1994/95. It was just updated by General Abdusalami Abubakar, rtd in a hurry, it was a poorer copy. General Abubaker was working to an answer, I think the foreigners had advised him properly to disengage from power that with June 12 crisis you cant stay there. But disengage and look at the person who should be your successor, that person should not be hostile to the foreign powers, he should be a friend of those who enjoy Nigeria.
Nigeria, a perpetual importer that must buy goods from outside , those countries own Nigeria more than you and I. They did not want a successor who would serve like a Rawlings of Ghana , Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso or even a mild Nelson Mandela of South Africa . They wanted somebody you can call a zombie of the foreign powers.
The constitution was drafted and approved to serve that purpose. That constitution is therefore a constitution of a supremacist regime . .
We in Nigeria especially in the South , although we are educated but sometimes we don’t examine the etymology and meaning of words.
So you have layers of powers in areas with Emirs and governors. So that, 1979 constitution is a slave mandate intended to conquer , dominate , diminish and ruin the south. It is the modern version of the amalgamation of January 1, 1914.
That Amalgamation of north and south arose from a long debate among colonial powers in London as to whether there should be two countries, one Northern Nigeria and the other Southern Nigeria as it was in the Sudan , as it was in North Korea, South Korea. When that debate was on , the memos were written by Captain Lugard. But who was Lugard. In my writings I referred to Lugard as a security guard.
Frederick Lugard came to this end of the world as the security officer of the Royal Niger Company , that company came to do business. It was in charge of all the riverine areas. Charter was given to them in 1885 to trade and make profit in this region
We had independent kingdoms in the region – Bonny, Isoko, Efik, Calaber, Ukwuani , Ijaw , Urhobo, Itsekiri, Onitsha, Igala, Benin kingdom, the biggest of them all . To bring these people under control so that you could trade conveniently you needed some military might.
The Royal Niger company was given powers by the British parliament to form its own army, they called it Constabulary to go and deal with these natives going to interrupt trade, suppress the area and bring civilization there.
The man that was appointed to head that force was Frederick Lugard from Scotland , he then came there and exercised his mandate. He used the method of massacre and bloodshed to eliminate, he conquered many areas from Lokoja, Igala name it. In 1894 Lugard fought as far as Sokoto where there was rebellion against him, that rebellion was buried in blood. Then he exiled about three hundred and fifty women and children never to come back.
The atrocities committed by Lugard are so unpardonable that no matter how wide the gates of heaven is he will never get there.
Lugard did this murder of innocent people so efficiently that he was rewarded by the British. When the British system was trying to occupy this colony they were also trying to do same in Uganda. The Uganda also revolted as our people did here.
Don’t forget there was King Pepple of Bonny who was arrested, kidnapped and jailed and exiled overseas. There was Jaja of Opobo for similar reasons. Jaja became king of Opobo and he paid all the debts the African merchants were owing in one day. And the British said this must be a dangerous man, pay the debts of his colleagues and they had to frame him , he was arrested and jailed .
When they finished with the two people they came to Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi of Benin kingdom, the oldest empire after the Egyptian empire. If you didn’t conquer Benin you could not amalgamate Nigeria. But before Benin there was an Itsekiri/Urhobo man called Nana Olomu. Independently he had a city in Benin river called Ebrohimi , he tarred all the streets . Nana had five thousand canons to defend that city. He was a man of civilization, grounded in style .
He spoke seven languages. He spoke Urhobo, Ijaw, Itsekiri , Portuguese, Spanish, French and a little of Arabic. His father Itsekiri from Benin River and his mother from Urhobo in Ekpan, Uvwie
The greatest warriors of Urhobo then were the Uvwies. The British knew that Nana’s mother an Uvwie if they attacked Nana, Uvwie would send forces for his defence so on September 1 1894 the British attacked Uvwie , they had studied the area.
Effurun and several parts were attacked , a day before attacking Nana. Nana defended his city. A man , I wont name him now went to tell the British that he knew the road they would pass to Nana’s city if they wanted to attack him.
Nana dug canal round his city so if you were coming he would see you. But that man helped the British penetrate Nana’s city and he was defeated. He was not captured but he escaped to Lagos and then to Gold coast , today’s Ghana.
Nana was declared wanted dead or alive. After some months he surrendered himself. He was tried and banished for ten years. When he came back they allowed him to build a new city, that was how he built Koko in present day Warri north local government area .
After Nana of Itsekir was gone , Pepple , Jaja the only obstacle was Ovonramwen. When a white said he wanted to see the Oba, he was told that there was festival and no visitor was allowed to see the Oba.
And Oyinbo said black man giving me condition? That was how trouble started and that led to the invasion of Benin in 1897, February 17. After conquering Benin we had the first Unity government, north and south in the country.
Lugard had been sent to Uganda , earned more laurels, killing more people revolting against British rule. In 1913 Lugard was sent to Hong kong another British colony, Lugard massacred there the way he did in Uganda and Nigeria , he became a darling to the British colonial leaders.
This kind of murderer, you need him if you want to conquer people. This was also among why Lugard was promoted as security chief in the Royal Niger Company and made Governor General of Nigeria. The British had to withdraw the charter in 19100 to establish Nigeria. Between 19100 and 1914 was a critical point.
Southern Nigeria already had a robust economy, it was not so in the north. When the matter got to the British parliament , the parliamentarians kicked against using British money to run Nigeria. It was at this point that Bruce Harcourt who was secretary of states for the British colony wrote another memo. He argued that to save the situation and to retain the two places as our colony, we should merge the north and south as one country. In the merger we should make the north husband and make the south wife, I quote him.
By the law of husband-wife relation in England that time, a husband owned what a wife had. It is that law of romance that was introduced into the amalgamation. By that law southern Nigeria was to provide the resources to run the south and the north. That system is still in force today and it is a 106 years . the southern Nigeria is the feeding bottle.
During colonial time they managed to reduce to what they called derivation. If they earned money in your area fifty percent would be returned to you . This ran from 1946 to 1960. This was repeated in 1960, 63 constitution. In the derivation, if you had ocean the whole ocean belonged to you. It was agreed that the country would be a federation and not a unitary system.
We had a trimmed federal government. Nigeria constitution from 1979 was based on the American federation but it is not a federal constitution in clear sense .The northern oligarchies that have benefited for years from this bonanza have been unwilling to return to the federal system. They have been lucky that they have ruled the country for years as military leaders. The northern oligarchy not the masses have benefited from this free lunch. They created more states, more local governments in the north.
All go to Abuja for allocation from the federation account. Kano has 44 local governments, Bayelsa has eight. When they go to share money in Abuja kano takes for 44 while Bayelsa takes for eight local government . Until this law is reviewed we don’t have a federation.
I started by saying the Omo Agege”s committee is lucky because the ground work had been completed. The boldest and most comprehensive effort to review the 1999 constitution was the 2014 national conference.
The confab looked at every phrase, line that offend federal principles were removed. The most difficult, Section 44, sub section 3 that says ownership of oil and natural gas must be federal government. With this which money will Delta state government use to develop the state? The state is 48 percent under water, if you fail to develop the riverine areas, you have not done much as a governor .There is injustice. Apart from the section , we went to exclusive legislative list which is for the federal government. There are 68 items there. We reviewed them line by line. We came to item 39, the one that says oil, natural gas, minerals only federal government can legislate there. The north invited their best from Harvard to come and join that special committee looking at this. When we had prepared our reports we had to go to plenary where the stones flew.
At the plenary former governor of Bayelsa state, Deipreye Alamiesegha had done a paper on his own that had all the 42 minerals in the country. Federal government is not so interested in solid minerals they are interested in oil money, What it will get from the oil money.
This constitution has made Nigeria to follow the wrong part, the part that does not lead to development. More painful because federal government has the rights over the oil, states cant invest in it.
If we were to invest in petrochemicals we would be a rich nation. We would be like Iraq, United States of America, USA, these are oil producing states. The Niger delta will be like Texas state in the USA.
If we had trained 10,000 engineers in key sectors of oil and gas we would have been self sufficient as a nation now..
We tackled item 39 and we came to a compromise that both the federal government and the state government would legislate on oil. It means that Delta state government would also give license , share gains with the federal government on oil.
READ ALSO: Why INEC deregistered 74 political parties
We came to a conclusion on state creation- that each of the six geo political zones should have equal number of states.
The states will have the same number of Senators . Second consideration was create states to have a balance of states in each of the zones. We now said we would create 18 more states , and under fiscal federalism no state would be poor. There would be no minimum wage across the country. Each state will pay according to its capacity.
In the South south zone, Delta, we settled for New Delta state and Anioma state. Anioma made a case for their state in 1953, the paper was signed by Chief Denis Osadebe. It is not a new matter they were asking for. Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw , Isoko we have been very close culturally. So two states would emerge from Delta as Anioma and New Delta.
Another state is Cross River. The demand for Ogojo state has been intense. They deserve a state. So these are the ones we carved out in this South south region. South west we said it should be three. All these were consensus decisions at the conference. In all each of the geopolitical zones were to have equal number of states , nine for each zone. And all the zones decided on their states
Section 8 of the constitution says we should do a referendum. That was what they did before Midwest was created in July 1963, the people said they wanted the Midwest region.
The election was too close so President Goodluck Jonathan could not do implement these things. My thinking is that he wanted to pursue the project in his second term.
The Nigeria problem that requires restructuring can’t be resolved with ordinary reform, or policy change .
The APC asked El Rufai to head a committee. They knew Nigerians would respect his committee. Surprisingly he came out with a report supporting our position. The APC government itself has refused to implement its own recommendations.
We see the whole country burning , insecurity now. We see Fulani Herdsmen/farmers crisis everywhere , nothing seem to be done.
This is the time now that President Muhammadu Buhari brought Senator Ovie-OmoAgege, an Urhobo man. I consider it as a unique opportunity for the marginalised to send their opinions in, flood Omo Agege”s committee with memorandum.
I don’t see the Omo Agege’s committee going behind what Elrufai did .
We expect that it will favour federalism in Nigeria, resource ownership equity and justice. When those conditions come, poverty in Nigeria will be redressed. Violence in elections will diminish and we will now enter the realm of modernization and peace and development.