A foremost Federalist and a PhD Researcher at the University of Port Harcourt, Mr Tony Osborg, has described the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as a victim of prebendalism.
Speaking earlier this week on Monday the 19th of July 2021 with his co-researchers during a socio-political policy dialogue at the Department of Philosophy, University of Port Harcourt, Osborg described the NDDC as a victim of a patronage system which is an inevitable by-product of the bad unitary structure that we falsely call a federation in Nigeria.
He argued that “first and foremost we need to understand that the problem we have in Nigeria is not necessarily that of leadership and or corruption. Our political structure is so faulty to the extent that it affects everything else, including the performance of good and visionary leaders.
“Bring back Jonathan or retain President Buhari and their political parties for another ten years and I can assure you that the result will likely be the same because no matter how good a driver is if the car has a flat tyre or a bad engine, there will no motion for the car. This is the situation we have found ourselves in in Nigeria today. Sadly our leaders have failed to understand this critical point in our politics’.
He went further “In my book published in 2015 titled ‘Can Nigeria Bake Her Own Bread?’ I argued that corruption was not Nigeria’s biggest problem like our leaders have made us believe over the years. Corruption in Nigeria is a symptom of a bad structure. The system we operate needs corruption to survive.
“If you eliminate corruption from our system, that is if you can, then the Nigerian political patronage system as we know it today will obviously collapse. Sadly, that will not happen because corruption and our political structure are in a symbiotic relationship. We all love and anticipate to benefit from corruption even though we are mostly publicly hypocritical about it.’
He added “in my Master’s Degree research, I argued that Nigeria does not yet qualify to be called a country because it does not yet possess the basic elements that make a functional society. Aside from that, even in our so-called federal system, we also do not possess the minimum requirement of federalism so we should not be called a federation. That is a topic for another day.
“Take a look at the NDDC, I mean a real look at the structure of the commission. First, the Act says you must rotate the executive positions amongst the various states, that is a kind of zoning. Do Nigerians know that zoning is a form of corruption under the patron-clientelism arrangement? Let me explain, here in the academic world, there is a word called prebendalism, that word defines everything we know today as Nigeria.
“Wikipedia defines prebendalism as ‘political systems in which elected officials and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group’. So, as you can see prebendalism defines Nigeria’s patronage system. Nigeria is prebendalism and prebendalism is Nigeria.
He went further “the only reason the Minister of the Niger Delta wants to retain full grip of the NDDC is simply to solely benefit from prebendalism. The rest of the Niger Delta leaders also scheming to make nominations into the NDDC board are all doing so for the same purpose of benefitting from prebendalism, even their concept of development is faulty because it is still tied to prebendalism.
“NDDC, just like every other federal institution of Nigeria is simply a victim of prebendalism. It is even worse at the state level, look at my home state of Delta. The Urhobos and Ijaws are scheming to take over from the Ika man not on the basis of competence or development vision of the aspirants but on the basis of ‘na our turn’. Turn to do what, to obviously benefit from prebendalism and continue with the neopatrimonialism in Nigeria.
“While the elites sell zoning as a form of justice and fairness to the populace, in reality, it is their own strategy to redistribute wealth amongst themselves using a rotational mechanism that seems fair to the public. Nigerians now believe that the fastest way of bringing development to their region or community is to have their own power.
“How this aberration has become a national philosophy beats my imagination as a critical thinker. In our desperation to patronize prebendalism, we ignore merit and competence and this is exactly how we have arrived where we are today as a country with only growth but little development.
“Like Prof Claude Ake once said, Development is supposed to be a process of social transformation in which the people themselves are in charge of the process. You cannot sit in Abuja or Asaba and decide the development of my community, the people of that community must be part of the process and only then can they take ownership of their future by directing the process.
“Sadly the unitary system we operate in Nigeria forbids that kind of peoples participation in governance and that is why what we have across the country is simply growth and not development. The people cannot control their security, economy, education, etc. Everything is dictated from the centre so everybody wants to send their people to that centre rather than question why the centre should dictate everything and not grant them autonomy to determine their future.”
Tony Osborg who is also the Founder of Hometown Development Initiative (HDI), a think-tank organization founded in the year 2018 to proffer pragmatic solutions to social problems in Nigeria called on his fellow Philosophy PhD researchers to focus on addressing social issues with their theorization rather than theorizing on the abstract ideas of dead philosophers whose ideas have become redundant to the political realities of today.