National Assembly of Nigeria
To say that the country is united is a fallacy because there is no semblance of unity among the varied ethnic nationalities that constitute the country. This is a truism because Nigerians are divided along ethnic, regional, religious and political leanings. Also, some ethnic nationalities in the country had at one time or the other attempted to secede from the country but rescinded that decision because of the abundant oil and gas deposit in the Niger Delta.In January 1966, Issac Jasper Adaka Boro, having foreseen the devastation oil exploitation and exploration would cause the Niger Delta region, declared the Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic. The Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic existed for 12 days before Adaka Boro, the Head of the Republic was arrested by the administration of General Aguiyi Ironsi. He was later pardoned by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, the new Head of State after the counter coup of 29 July, 1966 but he was later killed on May 16, 1966, under a questionable circumstance. Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu also declared the Republic of Biafra in 1967 but was not allowed to go away because of the oil and gas that was in that region at that time. The counter coup of 29 July, 1966 that claimed the life of the Head of State, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi, was originally plotted to excise the North from Nigeria but the Northern army officers were advised against that plan by the British Government on the ground that the North depended on the South for its revenue which was derived from crude oil. The Yorubas have also threatened to secede from Nigeria when the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola was annulled.
It is an open secret that the civil war was fought over the control of oil in Nigeria and not to unite it. This is the fact because when the Ogoni crisis broke out, Tanko Yakasai, a northerner, made a shocking revelation about the civil war. He said, “How many local government do Ogoni have? Two out of 26 local councils in Rivers State. So like Biafra when it attempted to take away the oil, the man from Sokoto came and drove him away. So when next somebody comes to take it (oil) away, we are going together again. The man from Osun will go there and fight. We will take people from Osun and Ogun, and the likes of “Black Scorpion” (Benjamin Adekunle) to drive them away”. Therefore, the only reason Nigeria has not broken up is because of the huge crude oil and gas deposit in the Niger Delta region of the country. If the north had crude oil like the Niger Delta, it would have seceded from Nigeria long ago!
The aforementioned are pointers to buttress the fact that there is no unity in the country. This is why it becomes imperative that the on-going National Conference be taken as a rare opportunity for the different ethnic nationalities that make up the country, to touch every area that has engendered and promoted disunity among the Nigerian people to be looked at dispassionately in order to correct them. On the other hand, if these things that divide us cannot be corrected to cement our peaceful coexistence, there is no reason the various ethnic nationalities in this country should not be allowed to part ways and form their own countries. It is true that the few Nigerians who benefit abnormally from this incoherent and directionless country called Nigeria, do not want to hear talks about the breakup of the country. Such Nigerians resist talks about the breakup of the country with such irrational zeal that portrays them as people that love the country more than other Nigerians! This is not true as they only assume the posture of those who love the country but in reality they do not love the country but for the unquantifiable illegal wealth they make from crude oil. But we cannot continue to pretend that we are united when in actuality we are not. Also, we cannot continue to coexist in a disunited, disquieted and disharmonious country just because of the oil and gas that are domiciled in the Niger Delta. This should not be encouraged as every state in the country has innumerable natural and agricultural resources it can develop to generate revenues.
Thus, the on-going National Conference should be properly handled to re-orientate Nigerians. The 492 delegates in the National Conference should jettison tribalism, ethnicity, regionalism, religion etc and take a patriotic step to pursue a common goal that will bid Nigerians together. However, for the country to remain indivisible, certain measures should be observed. First, there must be true federalism where every state will control its resources and pay taxes to the central government as is obtainable in other federations. Thus, in a time span of nine years, the states should be compelled to development their natural and agricultural resources to generate their revenues. Within the nine years’ time span, derivation will increase every year till it gets to 100 per cent! For instance, derivation for oil producing states is presently 13 per cent. So, in the first year it will increase by 7 per cent to push it to 20 per cent and the second year it will be increased by 10 per cent to push it up to 30 per cent etc till it gets to 100 per cent. Ultimately, nine years are enough for the states to development their natural resources that will generate revenues for them!
Second, the draconian Petroleum Act of 1990: “An Act to provide for the exploration of petroleum from the territorial waters and the continental shelf of Nigeria and vest the ownership of, and all on-shore and off-shore revenue from petroleum resources derivable therefrom in the Federal Government and for all other matter incidental thereto”, should be repealed to allow the states exploit their oil and gas so they can generate their revenues! Likewise, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007: “The entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria”, should not be enshrined in the new constitution that will emanate from the National Conference.
Third, the repressive Land Use Decree No 6 of 1978 which empowers the government to control all lands in the country which renders the citizenry to mere tenant in their ancestral lands should also be excise from our statue books! This is the reason Nigerians do not have land titles with which they can obtain loans from banks to set up cottage industries! Fourth, the members of the State Assemblies and National Assembly must operate on part time basis. Their salaries and allowances must equate those of civil servants. Fifth, Fulani herdsmen should be restricted to designated grazeable lands across the country; they must not be allowed to trespass farmlands to avert wanton killings of innocent Nigerians. Sixth, the creation of local government areas should be left with the states without the approval of the National Assembly. Seventh, revenue allocation should not be based on the numbers of local government areas. Eighth, the new constitution should also create rooms for independent candidacy for elective positions in the country.
Nevertheless, if the 492 delegates at the National Conference cannot agree on how to fashion out a new constitution that will encompass the aforementioned, a referendum should therefore be conducted to determine Nigerians who wish to remain in Nigeria and those who wish to break away from the country. After all the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) which was formed in 1917 broke into 16 independent countries in 1991! On 9th July, 2011, South Sudan became an independent nation following a referendum on January 2011 which favoured secession from Sudan. On 16th March, 2014, the people of Crimea, in a referendum chose to join Russia! So, what is wrong if Nigerians should toe the line of South Sudan or Crimea? The amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form Nigeria was a political fiat which must be corrected at the on-going National Conference.
Nigerians cannot remain in one country when they are divided along ethnic, religious, regional and political leanings. Nigerians cannot remain in one country when they are not free to live peacefully in the northern part of the country. Adaka Boro and Lt. Col Odimegwu Ojukwu declared the Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic and Biafra Republic respectively but were not allowed to go away because of oil and gas. The South West and the monolithic North had also attempted to break away from the country but rescinded that decision also because of oil and gas. When the oil wells stop flowing or oil and gas are discovered in the north, Nigeria will definitely break up! Therefore, a referendum should be conducted to determine Nigerians who want to break away and those who will remain in the country.
Victor Anya, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ogba-Lagos. Tel: 08039181737. Email: email@example.com