The Ijaws: A nation in distress (2)
Continued from yesterday
AS far back as 2001 when oil prices started to rise, the political Mecca of politicians were Port Harcourt, Uyo, Asaba, Bayelsa, etc. No political party holds convention anywhere else but in these states and in Abuja where the tab was picked up by the oil producing state Governors. These states had governors who all wished to progress further to be President or Vice President; all were promised such reward for funding the party. There is nothing in this world simpler than blowing up the ego of an already egotistical governor. The Governors were the building blocks on the tracks to the Presidential race and there was no lack of supporters egging them on. It was indeed for this reason that made the President refuse to name a minister for oil: instead he named an Adviser who lived in Vienna and came from the north. Had he been alive, Mr. Buhari would have had a fight in his hand to get the nomination.
Now, comes Diezani who obviously had no interest to be the president but supremely interested in Mr. Goodluck, if the periodic scream of Patience is to be believed. If she had presidential ambition, she hid them very well. But there was no doubt that she was the most powerful minister and to cross her was to lose your job. Her mooring were strong in the presidency and she strengthened them with other familiar relationships. That Patience was unable to unseat her is an indication of her strength. Every other minister who crossed her had reason to apologise. Her strength was with Mr. Jonathan and once he lost the election she was totally at sea with a host of enemies. She never tried to build a power base or a constituency, convinced, as most of her colleagues were, that PDP would win that election. How could they lose with a war chest of trillions? My point, however, is not to defend her but to point out the sorry state of South-South geopolitical area since the demise of Alams and Ibori and Odili. These three were in charge of funding PDP and its coterie of politicians. They were no more corrupt than all other governors, all politically exposed people who worked a system that was mired in corruption. If this is so, why the concentration of punishment on people from South-South? Ibori, Alams, Igbinedion, Diezani, etc. (Peter was able to act an injunction to stop inquiries into his affairs otherwise he would have been in the soup also). If all of Nigeria was corrupt, why select for opprobrium only those from the South-South? There was a South-South NSA who died an ignoble death. Nearly all the politicians from the area are on flight because no one would protect them. I do not want the mistaken impression that I condone the corruption of South-South politicians, but if the truth be told, they were no worse than their counterparts the nation over.
Indeed if they were to speak about how much help they gave to the PDP then more people would join them in their lonely cells in prison. The South-South lacks political cohesion, political power and political gravitas. They never learnt how to build power structure, seduced as they were by the praise singers who came with lorries to carry away the loot from South-South. The area remains the least developed in Nigeria, to the shame of all those who held power from the area.
The Ijaws are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria but the weakest, politically. They are larger than the Tivs or Idomas or Igallas all of whom are better politically organised than the Ijaws. The Ijaws suffer from the clear jealousy of other groups who continue to exploit them and their divisions. If one is blessed, as the Ijaws are with oil, then a certain jealousy of that wealth cannot be ignored but look how miserably poor the people are and how despoiled their area has been? Who is the rich Ijaw man? How many of them have been in the oil business and profited from it? The Federal Government had a policy that all industries established in a state would attract a 10% of ownership for the State housing the Industry.
Thus, Anambra got 10% of Anamco. Lagos 10% of Volkswagen (VW) and 30% of Julius Berger (JB). Oyo – 10% of Leyland, Bauchi – 10% of Styr, Kaduna 10% of Peugeot etc. Does Rivers State have 10% of the fertilizer plant, 10% of Petro Chemicals, and 10% of the Refineries? Does Delta own 10% of the Steel plant, 10% of the Refinery etc? When these questions are asked a perfectly sensible answer is given – the Refinery, the fertilizer plant, Petro Chemical is a product of oil which is 100% Federal Property. On the face of it, this sounds reasonable until you consider the word property? What does it mean? If you can give Kano, Lagos, Oyo, Anambra etc 10% of a factory – is that not property?
My point is that the sins of a few Ijaw people cannot be used as the explanation of their character. The second point is that they are politically weak and exploited and what other groups get away with the Ijaws somehow cannot get away with the same sins. If all are thieves, the Ijaw have stolen no more than others. Moreover, there is more to the Ijaws than the horrible examples of those who held office and stole had displayed. There are many Ijaws that have served the Federal and State Governments without descending to the depths of those being charged at the moment. Those Ijaws include W.O. Briggs, Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas, Prof. Tam David West, Prof. Tekena Tamuno, Chief Dappa Biriye, Mr. Ajumogobia, Melford Okilo, and countless many more. Finally, the Ijaws condemn with every inch of their being the failures of their own sons and daughters. But they demand, as the Holy Book says, remove the beam in your eyes before you can see the mote in mine.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Dr. (Ambassador) Cole, OFR, writes from Lagos