Urhobo Historical Society

Obasanjo and Our Social Order

By Ochuko Saduwa
/logo_min.gif - 1122 Bytes The Guardian Online -http://www.ngrguardiannews.com
Wednesday, November 14, 2001

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo is an avowed apostle of one indissoluble Nigeria. His investment in the Nigerian project has remained in the main the story of his life. Between January 1966 to date, the man has expended so much determinism (military and political), on the Nigerian scene unsurpassed by any Nigerian, living or dead. From his ingenious deception role post-1966 military putsch to the arrangee election of 1979, down to his messianic call of June 12, 1993 and his recent political resurgence, the man cuts a perfect symbol Janus pre-ordained by providence to design and direct the destiny of this country.

 Prior to his moon-slide electoral victory at the 1999 presidential election, the president had promised to equilibrate our total social system. He was in fact very specific on the Niger Delta question, which he pledged to resolve within 100 days in office. That hope was also rekindled on May 29, 1999 on the occasion of his inaugural address. But before then, the man has sermonized on the efficacy of social justice as the true panacea for social order, peace and stability. That was on the occasion of his special thanksgiving church ceremony held on September 20, 1998 at Abeokuta to commemorate his narrow escape from the Abacha dungeon. Hear him, "...let me state here that the God we all serve whether He is Ifa, Allah, Olokun, Abasi, the Almighty, etc, is God of justice, ... if that God abhors injustice, He will have nothing to do with a people who flout the basic laws of humanity on platter of governance." But the man was not yet through. He went further, "let me warn further that for Nigeria to be a peaceful, strong and united country of our dream and those of unborn generations, Nigerians of all persuasions must of necessity embrace the twin virtues of truth and justice at all times..." That was President Obasanjo, eight months before his ascension to power, and 14 months before the Odi massacre.

 Yet given the above-animated words of the President, no one doubted for once that the man has turned a new leaf. But it is now well over two years since that declaration and the optimism of the Niger Delta people is once again giving way to frustration and despair. In the first place, the only response of the President on the Niger Delta question so far is the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission on September 2000, 488 clear days into office, In either case, what has become very obvious is the very fact that from the beginning, the president's resolve to politicise the NDDC structures has become the instrument of its very failure. Which confirms the scepticism everywhere that the president has appropriated well over N2,000 billion from the region's oil jugular. Of this amount, well over N200 billion has been expended by the president on road projects none of which is in the Niger Delta. At present the president has ordered apian ways for Yelwa-Birni-Kebbi, Hadeja-Kano, Abuja-Keffi, Gombe-Potiskum and Jalingo-Wukari highways. The last two projects are to gulp N18.1billion. And only a few months ago, the president approved N3 billion for the channelisation of Ogunpa River in Oyo State. Even Kano where Southerners are infidels received a bounty of N400 million of oil money for its electricity project. The list is endless. In spite of its status as an annual recipient of one per cent from the Federation Account, Abuja got N58billion extra-budgetary allocation for a stadium complex. All these expenditures are directly funded by the oil wealth of the Niger Delta. Now compare and contrast. The two roads linking the South-South and South-East geo-political zones to the rest of the country that were abandoned during 16 years of military rule remain abandoned under the Obasanjo administration till this day. I am reliably informed that these two roads viz, Benin-Effurun-Yenagoa-PH-Uyo and Onitsha -Owerri-Aba will cost barely N28b to construct within 18months. The question then is, where is justice? Why does the president display much reverted attention and affection for a section of the country notorious for its religious impropriety in sharp contrast with his perverse and wicked disposition toward a people whose oil wealth he appropriates rapaciously and transfers exclusively to the rest of the country?

 Day in day out, the oil communities are threatened by erosion. Evidence abounds in literature that shows linear correlation between green house effect (gas flaring) and flooding and by extension erosion. The associated health problems on man occasioned by gas flaring are too well known to recount here. Yet the president is hell bent on taking the Niger Delta to the cleaners. While on a state visit to the United States of America early this year, the president, like a prodigal son pawning his inheritance in the market square, promised to assist the American people on their energy crisis. Back home the man leased out every inch of Niger Delta region to oil mercenaries who now flag their prized licences like war veterans to the chagrin of the helpless indigenes. The president did all that even without regard for a holistic environmental blueprint as a condition precedent under international environmental law. The president surely has one aim on purpose namely, finish off the oil of the region soonest and kill for ever the monster called resource control; their environment (future) can go to hell! By hindsight one can see the present conspiracy as the amplification and projection of his age-long politics of isolationism and perversion against the Niger Delta people, a policy thrust that is gradually snowballing into a long draw-out battlement to finish off a stubborn opponent. But the question the president must answer is, will he do the same thing if Abeokuta was involved.

 Yet I have continued to search history for possible explanation on that phenomenon. Where a Benin federal high court via an ex parte injunction estops the federal authorities from the dredging of the Niger Delta pending an EIA report, the president orders the contrary because the Niger Delta is involved. Where the very constitution he swore to uphold expresses unambiguously that a minimum of 13 per cent be accruable to the oil bearing states on derivation principle, the president finds it convenient to circumvent it because the Niger Delta is involved. When restive unemployed youths of the Niger Delta run berserk leaving in the trail blood of serving policemen, the president orders military invasion of the locus in quo because the Niger Delta is involved. The question then is, can a government that shuns the rule of law ever lay claim to peace and social order? Does it not amount to propagation of state violence for an elected government to disregard the legal instrument by which it did ascend to power? Yet while the president remains in contempt of the 1999 Constitution, he has shamelessly gone to the same court of equity, albeit with unclean hands seeking inter alia, judicial interpretation on revenue allocation.

But by far the most alarming component of that phenomenon is the president's penchant for re-writing history. For instance, while on a recent state visit to Bayelsa State, the president dismissed proponents of resource control as selfish and opportunists given that he and his fellow Yoruba kinsmen in conjunction with his Arewa co-patriots laid down their lives to liberate the entire Niger Delta from the harsh claws of the Ibos. But what may not be obvious to the president is that he has invariably educated younger generations of Nigerian that the Nigerian civil war fought between 1967-1970 was not meant to keep Nigeria one as a task, but to save the Niger Delta people from Ibo annihilation. What a seed of discord from a president! That material fallacy notwithstanding, it is significant to note that even if the Ibos of the then Eastern Region of the 1960s were oppressive to the minorities of the East, its counterpart west of the Niger was no less vicious to the Urhobos, Ijaws, Isoko and Ndokwas of the then Western Region. Again it is worth reminding the President that in spite of the wealth of the old Western Region, not even a kobo was given to the then newly excised Midwest Region in 1963. The then young region had to make do with an open truck as its mobile secretariat for six months! Yet this was a region whose economic outposts of ATP (Sapele), ship factories (Burutu), shoes factories (Sapele) and its port facilities at Koko, Sapele, Burutu, Warri etc contributed in no small measure to the Cocoa House, WNTV and WNBS of the old Western Region. We are also no unmindful of the fact that Warri, the economic nerve centre of the Delta people is presently in turmoil no thanks to the 1952 political intrigues of the then Action Group government.

Yes, Nigeria is 41 years and the president wants us to celebrate. But what is there to celebrate when the socio-political problem heralding independence in 1960 continue to hunt us till this day? Is it not conclusive proof that Nigeria remains jinxed to self ebullition given its fraudulent beginning, a beginning foisted with injustice as its password? Again, why does the socio-political struggle for the soul of Nigeria since 1960 oscillate between the twin extremes of traditional orthodoxies of conservatism and realism? Yet it is that parlous state that has sprouted all the past military adventurers including their present day surrogates. For political power is sought not for the flame of patriotism but out of sheer vanity since that power has the potency of transforming its inheritor (be he an idiot, imbecile, a dunce or a even a court jester) from a mere vassal of state of that of dominion directum. As a little boy, it was a most intriguing experience staring at the portrait of the late General Aguyi Ironsi and those of his then regional helmsmen dotting insignia of office that decreed what was then known as the four forbidden fruits of public life to wit, no tribalism, no nepotism, no corruption, no bribery all in quest of social order. At the time I knew not what these orders meant. But I was to learn later that General Ironsi was murdered on charges of tribalism. Those who killed him accused him of attempts to Ibonise both the military and the federal civil service via his infamous Unification Decree No. 24 of 1966. In other words, General Ironsi allegedly disobeyed his own laws and for that he was visited with violence. But even if Ironsi failed the test of tribalism, all his predecessors till-date have failed roundly in all four charges. Of most significance here however, is the very fact that the much later Obasanjo Land Use Decree No. 6 of 1978 is very much consistent with the Ironsi decree given that both the unitary and expropriatory in nature and character. Similarly, the Gowon Petroleum Act No.51 of 1969 is not different either in form or character from the Ironsi decree aforesaid. Yet strange enough, while the former was killed with its author, the latter have continued to blossom in everything we do. This and other numerous contradictions within out politic remain the very root of our present day social malady. And since peace and justice are mutually inclusive, we will continue to reap violence in abundance in the absence of the latter. Nigerians must prevail on President Obasanjo today to follow his own sermon of truth and justice. Peace will continue to elude us all so long as the president insists on doing the exact opposite of what should bring peace to the country. As lawyers would say, he who seeks equity must do equity. Cessa causa, cessa effectus. Only the cause can remove the effect.