“Opportunity lost can never be regained.”
By Dele Sobowale
In the good old days, pupils in public primary schools received a strong dose of folks’ wisdom along with their lessons in English. My all-time favourite teacher – Mr Udoh – who shaped my life at St Peter’s Primary School, Faji, Lagos, was responsible for drumming that piece of sage wisdom into our small skulls in Standard Four in 1956. It was the sort of wisdom most Niger Delta political leaders – President, Governors especially, Ministers, Senators, Speakers of States Houses of Assemblies – never understood or applied to governance in the region when God smiled on the neglected people by giving them crude oil.
But, of all the leaders, especially since 1999, the only one who had a good grasp of the fleeting nature of their collective great fortune was Obong Victor Attah. That was why of all Nigerian political leaders, I voluntarily became his disciple. After taking a glance at the first edition of ATTAH ON RESOURCE CONTROL, I made up my mind that here, at last, is one Nigerian politician to follow – because he had his gaze fixed firmly on the future of his people. And, by people I mean the entire Niger Delta.
Readers have three ways they can read the book. First, copies of the book are available in the libraries of ALL NIGERIAN universities – Federal, State and private. Obong Attah gave the permission for the distribution and our Area Boys at UniJankara either posted or hand-delivered all the copies to the universities.
Second, the books are available for reading free of charge on our website. Already, an incredible four million visits have been recorded. Third, those who want their own copy can just ask me. Right now, as a back up to this article, cover price is N2, 000 – excluding postage or delivery charges until the end of November.
It is a great pity that Nigerians, particularly youths, have lost the reading culture. But, if there is one book all Niger Deltans must read, it is second edition of ATTAH ON RESOURCE CONTROL – not because I edited it, but because it serves as a starting point in the struggle for restructuring or true federalism or, more to the point, an end to economic parasitism of the rest of the country on the nine oil producing states. For once, Attah should no longer fight alone. Everybody in the region must say NO to the brutal exploitation of the zone.
“In every country, every step to health is an insult to those who live on its sickness” – Bernard Malamud in THE FIXER.
Next to the parasites sucking the life-blood out of the region, the second worst enemies of the people of the Niger Delta are their own people – especially the governments at state level. When last week we published N40 trillion as the funds which had accrued to the states in the region in 18 years, we deliberately ended the article by pointing to the enormity of financial opportunities and the disappointing results which are visible in all the states – with few exceptions.
Surprising as it might appear to many Nigerians, the Age of Oil in Nigeria reached its peak between 2007and 2014. Close to 55 per cent of the revenue from crude was collected and mostly wasted during the period – which included the years Jonathan was President. Any state could have served to illustrate how N40 trillion was received but there was little to show. The article below was published in April 2011. There should be no problem understanding the meaning.
AKPABIO: THE FIRST TRILLION NAIRA GOVERNOR — 1
…Sir, you need another visit to A/Ibom to see how Akpabio has built on d foundation your friend, Attah, whom I regard as d founding father of modern A/Ibom, laid. U’ll be amazed at d transformation – Tolu”.
That message was at the tail end of the text sent to me by my friend, Tolu, on March 13, 2011. As it turned out, some other folks, anxious for me to visit Akwa Ibom, had sent me a leaflet titled, BONDAGES OF AKPABIOISM, which they claim is now being widely distributed in the state. Going under the name of FREE AKWA IBOM COMMITTEE, FAIC, the group, in the leaflet under reference, drew attention to the fact that Governor Akpabio had, in the first three years in office, collected from the Federation Account and other sources N700 billion. They also pointed out that this year’s budget, which had just been passed by the state House of Assembly, amounted to N310 billion. They did not tell me but we do nothing else at UniJankara other than add figures. If those claims are true, and at least the N310 billion is true, then Governor Godswill Akpabio would have become Nigeria’s first governor to have N1 trillion to spend in four years. This is vital because of people like Tolu who make unfair and misleading economic and performance comparisons between various governors in Nigeria.
It is a fact supported by the monthly publications of the Federal Ministry of Finance that, from 2007, Akwa Ibom had collected more revenue than the poorest six states in the country (Kwara, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Plateau, Gombe and Nassarawa) put together. In actual fact, only a blockhead or someone being deliberately mischievous will compare Akwa Ibom with Nassarawa or Ekiti. The sensible comparison is between those states in ‘The Premiership of States’ – Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Lagos. And that is going to be the point of departure.
FAIC, as pointed out earlier, not only sent me a leaflet, disclosing how much the state government had spent in the last three years and what is budgeted for this year, they also made a startling disclosure. They claimed that all the previous governments of Akwa Ibom, since its creation in 1987, had collected less than half of what the current government had collected in three years. Indeed, from the figures provided, Governor Akpabio will have only N70 billion less to spend this year alone than other administrations in 23 years! And they assert that the people of Akwa Ibom had not got value for money. So, I was invited. Given my busy schedule, it was going to be a short visit, so I asked to be shown the Tropicana Hotel and Entertainment Complex which Governor Akpabio had promised, back in 2007, would have been be completed by now employing 5,000 people. The FAIC leaflet had claimed the Tropicana is not anywhere near completion. So, I went last week to verify. Unless the two eyes I took to Uyo had gone completely blind by the time of my arrival, there was no Tropicana Hotel employing anybody.
So Tolu, let me turn the table around and ask you to visit Uyo again and tell all Nigerians if there is a Tropicana. FAIC made other allegations bordering on massive deception of the public. Since, this is not an attempt to pull down the government of Governor Akpabio, but to set out the facts as best as I can, there is no need to list seriatim all they have said in the leaflet.
But, let me mention one other issue in contention. Governor Akpabio, in one of the several advertisements proclaiming his achievements, had claimed as follows: ‘TRIPLED SCHOOL ENROLLMENT’. That would mean that two out of three kids in schools in Akwa Ibom today started school in 2007. FAIC considers this a fraudulent claim. One of their spokesmen, who had called to invite me, challenged the governor to tell Nigerians if all those newly enrolled were in primary one or was the tripling from primary through secondary and tertiary institutions (including nursing school, technical colleges etc). Two, he demanded to know how it was possible to triple school enrollment without building additional schools/classrooms and recruiting teachers. Thank God, I am not the governor, so I don’t have to answer those questions.”
As predicted in the article in April 2011, the Akwa Ibom State Government ended the year with over N1trillion revenue collected from all sources in four years. That was not all, the next four years were even better. An estimated N1.3 trillion was collected. Thus in eight years, about N2.3 trillion landed in that state. Yet, the next four years produced no significant improvement from the standpoint of value for money.
I have provided some pictures of the projects which were started and either totally completed by Governor Victor Attah by the time he left office in the book IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. For instance, the VICTOR ATTAH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT was 90 per cent completed by May 29, 2007.
Yet, when the airport was commissioned in September 2007, just four months after, propagandists claimed it as one of the projects resulting in ‘uncommon transformation’ from 2007 to 2015.
That was not all. The Independent Power Plant, IPP, which was commissioned by President Obasanjo, was given a facelift and President Yar’Adua was invited to come and commission it once again. Fortunately, a photograph of OBJ commissioning it was available with me. I sent a letter to Yar’Adua warning him about the project. The late President cancelled his trip to the state for the project commissioning. Yet, this was another one of the projects which people like Tolu were shown as the achievements of the government at the time. Even now, a fact-finding tour of the entire Akwa Ibom State, during which projects completed by Governors Attah (1999-2007) and Udom Emmanuel (2015-2019), will still reveal how little there is to show for N2.3 trillion collected from 2007 to 2015.
UUTH AND THE 17 DIALYSIS MACHINES’ SAGA
Among the projects claimed to be embarked upon was the construction of a Dialysis Unit equipped with 17 machines situated at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital — among the first year’s achievements. Again, I was there in the Dialysis Unit a few months earlier making inquiries on behalf of a former VANGUARD staff member. There were only three machines in the small unit and the staff told me it was built by Attah. My article asking ‘Where are the 17 machines in the Dialysis Unit?’ provoked a rejoinder by scared top officials of UUTH at first. But, when I sent them pictures of the unit, they quietly apologized. Till today, nobody has explained what happened to the funds allocated for and spent on the UUTH Dialysis Unit. I even know the contractor who supplied the three machines for which Attah paid.
I have gone to great lengths about Akwa Ibom State because I was more informed about the state than any other one. Let me hasten to add that about the same amount – N2.3trillion — was collected in the same period by Rivers State government. There, again, it is extremely difficult to see development in the state commensurate with the revenue collected. Yet, in each of these states, indigenes occupied the state House of Assembly. There were Speakers and members who looked the other way as governments failed to deliver services and lay the foundation for perpetual economic growth long after oil has ceased to be a major factor. Now that the Age of Oil is coming to a close, the future looks bleak. There are no jobs to engage the growing population. The only options left are tough. One, the Niger Delta must unite and fight for RESOURCE CONTROL as soon as possible. Two, they must tackle the vultures who, when the opportunity came, robbed the majority and left them in dire strait.