For God and Country

Country-16-9-15-CopyThe book For God and Country (LSB Publishing, 2011; Volume 1) by Chief A. K. Horsfall is a collection of his speeches, lectures and thoughts. The book divided into five parts was published to mark his 70th birthday. It is a personal history as well as an account of his involvement in the affairs of his immediate community, Buguma, and the Niger Delta. The book chronicles the author’s days as chairman of the “smooth and turbulent” Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). The ambivalent quote is indicative of his chequered tenure as chairman. Any reader of the book not privileged to follow the affairs of OMPADEC in its heydays can be educated on how OMPADEC’s friends unsuccessfully worked for its survival and how its enemies from within and outside the Niger Delta region successfully worked for its demise.

Security, community-government-oil company relations, the Niger Delta, and Nigerian politics as well as youth restiveness are other issues thrown up in the book. It is noteworthy that the author emphasized that the speeches and lectures were written by him and that he had never accepted draft speeches or lectures from anyone.

In Part One (devoted to “Politics,” the author explained why he decided to go on exile after ceasing to be the OMPADEC chairman. “The events leading to the dissolution (of OMPADEC) and those which followed soon after led me to conclude that the best way to contribute to finding solutions to some of the problems wilfully or inadvertently created at the time was for me to choose the path of self-respect, honour and reconciliation, rather than one of confrontation and conflict…This reason and my son’s ill-health informed my leaving the country in February 1996.” He was on self-imposed exile for two and half years. Chief Horsfall’s joy on his return was shared by a “mammoth” crowd that gathered to welcome him back to his hometown, Buguma, Rivers State.

The book highlights issues in the Niger Delta struggle, pointing out that all that Niger Deltans needed was “…equity, fairness and justice in the distribution of power, wealth, legitimacy and social justice in the Nigerian nation.” The author went on to discuss resource control by oil mineral producing states and South-South’s quest to produce the president, a demand that crystallized after the adoption of the six geo-political zones in the country during the Gen. Sani Abacha regime.

The unfolding events that led to the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s assumption of the office of the president of Nigeria in 2009 tended to have, by sheer providence, answered the needs of the Niger Deltans. The author duly acknowledged this as he arguably stated that “the victory of President Jonathan in the 2011 election was a dual victory in that it afforded the Niger Deltans not only a shot at the presidency but also the resource control that they have been yearning for.”

The huge issues related to OMPADEC are carried over from Part One of the book to Part Two (devoted to “Security and Intelligence,” where the emphasis is on the issue of security in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian nation in general. The author acquainted the reader with how he became a security officer at the age of 17 and continued to work for the various security organizations of the country for a period of 30 years. His experience in the public service, he said, had moulded him to have a nationalistic outlook without necessarily forgetting the interest of his people. Thus, in pressing his community’s case, Chief Horsfall, unlike others, toed a pacifist but non-compromising path.

The need for present-day security personnel in the country to tap from the wealth of knowledge of this security czar cannot be over-emphasised. As stated in the book, Chief Horsfall had once proposed a bill to the National Assembly for a reform of the Nigerian security system. Although the book did not indicate whether the bill was formally discussed by the Assembly or not, the contents of that bill, I believe, is worth looking into by those saddled with the responsibility of securing the nation. Chapter 20 of the book, a pool of information inviting security-minded persons to bare their thoughts, reflects the author’s belief that “Security is everyone’s business.” According to the author, “One does not really learn intelligence even though he may be very intelligent and well trained in the art and the profession.” (Page 167)

In Part Three (devoted to “OMPADEC Days,”, we see further interesting information on OMPADEC. But this time, OMPADEC was under scrutiny by various panels set up to look into its activities during the period the author served as its chairman. The author, in presenting his case before the panels and at several public lectures, outlined various attempts made to assuage the plight of the communities of the Niger Delta region. He went down memory lane to explain that initially the Niger Delta region comprised of the territory currently covering Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers States. However, “Niger Delta” was subsequently stretched to include other oil-mineral producing states of Ondo, Abia and Imo.

The book enlightened the reader on the genesis of oil mineral production in Nigeria. The reader is informed that Shell D’Arcy Company, preparatory to its oil exploration in Nigeria, set up a camp in Owerri in 1937. Subsequent to that, oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta by the company at Oloibiri (in present Bayelsa State) in 1956. However, the issue of revenue sharing was said to have dated back to 1946. Since Oloibiri, crude oil and gas have been discovered and extracted from other parts of the Niger Delta region.

In response to agitations by minority groups in Nigeria, which included the Niger Delta, the colonial authority had set up the Willink Commission (named after Harry Willink, former Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University who headed the Commission) in 1957. Willink was said to have described the Niger Delta territory as poor and recommended that it be treated as a “special area.” Consequent to that the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) was established in 1960 to develop the area…

One thing readers of the book may find as its shortcoming is the fact that some of the papers are not dated which makes it difficult to understand when the speeches and lectures were delivered. Another shortcoming is the failure to arrange the papers in chronological order. Such shortcomings slightly impede one’s understanding of the sequence of events presented in this expository tome. It is hoped that future editions of the book will correct these and the few typographical errors noticed. All in all, readers of For God and Country will find it very informative and those saddled with the responsibility of leadership in the country may find in it a useful guide in tackling some of the problems troubling the nation.

•Bukar Usman is a former Permanent Secretary in the Presidency

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