By now, you probably have watched the viral video of the town hall meeting organized by the ministry of masquerade dressing (otherwise known as ministry of information) in Uyo the Akwa Ibom state capital.
At that event, the mild mannered minister of state for petroleum resources, Ibe Kachikwu, proved that you should not judge a book by its cover as he publicly took on the minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi and gave him an answer that could not be responded to.
Amaechi, in response to a question on why he appears to want to consign the maritime university Okerenkoko to history, responded thus:
“I am not against the University. I hope you people appreciate that. My argument about Okerenkoko is that the land alone is N13 billion. If you give me N13 billion I will buy half of Lagos. That N13 billion has built the university already so there is no need to spend more money. Let EFCC retrieve the money from them and then release them and we would build the University. I believe the Federal government has no money to continue. When we have money we would continue. The Minister of state for Petroleum has whispered to me that he would look for the money to continue…Minister, bring it to me and I will continue”
In response to this, Mr. Kachikwu said:
“First let me say on Maritime University, I disagree with the minister of transport. Any facility that is placed in the south south, we should work towards developing it. I don’t care the circumstances under which we are placed… It is not my position to determine whether land was valued at N19 million or N10 million or N3 million. The appropriate institutions which are the court systems will determine that. That has nothing to do with the development of the infrastructure. As far as I know, so much has gone into that property. So much fiscal assets are being developed. We are not going to throw the baby with the bath water. We will deal with the issues but the University will be developed. If he doesn’t want it in maritime, I will take it to petroleum”
Seated with the duo was the minister for budget and planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma. The cameras actually caught his smile as he listened to Kachikwu and I tell you, that smile was worth N13 billion.
It was the type of smile you get when you watch an Uncle Tom being given a lecture he so badly needed.
An Uncle Tom is defined as an individual who is excessively apathetic to the group interests of his community while at the same time rabidly crying more than the bereaved in support of the group interest of another community with competing interests to his own community within a state or a nation.
I will leave it to my readers to determine whether this definition defines Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi or not.
But since the minister of state aptly chided Amaechi for attempting to throw away the baby with the bath water, it might be expedient of me to bring my readers up to speed about the origin of the term ‘throw away the baby with the bath water’.
In medieval Europe up until the Industrial Revolution, water was scarce. You could hardly get enough to drink, let alone bath with, so people did not have their bath regularly as they do today.
What would happen is that a family would obtain a bath tub’s worth of water at great expense and then the man of the house would have his bath right in the bath tub. When he was done, the next ranking male member of the family would have his bath. This would continue until all the men in that household had had their baths according to their pecking order.
Next in line would be the females who, believe it or not, would all have their baths in that very same water, according to their standing in the family.
Finally, the minor children of the household would then have their baths in that same water and bath tub.
As you can imagine, by this time, the water would have become dirty and almost muddy and by the time the matron of the family came to throw away the water, she may not notice that a young child or baby was in the water and in many cases they threw the water into the sewers along with any unfortunate child that was hidden in the water by the dirt.
This historical occurrence is a metaphor for Nigeria.
The precious water in the bath tub represents the wealth of Nigeria, which in this case is largely centered around the oil industry which is domiciled in the Niger Delta.
The bath tub itself is Nigeria.
The men, women and children who bath with the water in the bath tub are the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria.
The man who first enters the bath tub is the Northern gentleman. He is followed in quick session by the Westerner and then the Easterner and the women are the larger minorities.
Finally, the children and babies are the smaller minorities that largely make up the Niger Delta.
The matron who attempts to throw the baby away with the bath water are those people close to power and who rather than serve the people from whence they came, prefer to serve the powers that be.
By that standard, Rotimi Amaechi is a matron who must realize that he was not sent to the Niger Delta by President Muhammadu Buhari. Rather, he was sent by the Niger Delta to President Buhari.
Ibe Kachikwu gets this and I wish more people around President Muhammadu Buhari would get this.
In recent years, there has been an attempt by many pseudo intellectuals to try and revise Nigerian history by peddling the false narrative that prior to the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the Niger Delta, other regions shared their wealth equally within the Nigeria project.
This is simply a lie.
The fact is that until the infamous Decree 34 (Unification of Assets) was passed by the Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi administration after the aborted Nzeogwu/Ifeajuna (or Ifeajuna/Nzeogwu depending on who you believe) coup of January 15th, 1966, Nigeria practiced a brand of True Federalism known as regionalism.
The 1960 Independence Constitution arising from the 1957 Lancaster House Conference provided that each of the three regions (a fourth region, Midwest Region, was created in 1963) kept 50% of its income and paid 25% to the central government and 25% to a central pool that was then shared amongst the regions.
So in essence, what Nigerians freely agreed was that each region should keep at least 50% of its income (it could go as high as 75% when the central pool was shared amongst the regions).
Now without consulting the minorities, Nigeria’s majority ethnic nationalities, through force of military might, stripped the regions off control over their own resources and vested it in the newly created Federal Government and the minorities have been overruled at every constitutional conference since that time as they tried to reclaim their God given heritage.
On my first ever visit to Bayelsa state in 2012, I saw tens of human bodies that had been burned as if in a nuclear incineration. They had been scooping petrol from a fallen petrol tanker which eventually burst into flames and took them with it to other world.
Why did they do this? Because of poverty.
These people are so poor, yet Lt. General (rtd) T.Y Danjuma publicly declared that after he sold an oil block given to him by General Abacha, he made $1.5 billion (yes, you heard me right, $1.5 billion not Naira!) and had so much money that ‘I did not know what to do with it’!
Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija is the richest woman in Africa with a net worth of over $2 billion. She can afford to dole out millions of dollars through her charitable foundations because, like Mr. Danjuma, she also got an oil block from a military regime.
Not only has the Nigerian state stripped the Niger Delta of its own resources, the state has also used those resources to enrich a selected few individuals to the exclusion of the region that lays the golden egg.
So if Niger Delta oil has made well connected Nigerians over $13 billion in personal wealth, then Mr. Amaechi, what is the big deal if $13 billion is spent on the maritime university at Okerenkoko?
Right in Maitama and Asokoro, there are lands and properties that you can buy for $13 billion, yet there is not a single drop of oil in the Federal Capital Territory. As a matter of fact, the infrastructure that has made Abuja one of the most developed cities in Africa was funded by petrodollars from the Niger Delta.
So as my Yoruba brothers would say, kini big deal?
Ibe Kachikwu gets this. One wonders why Amaechi doesn’t? The two of them are very unique in that both Amaechi and Kachikwu straddle the world of both the Niger Delta and the Southeast where the Biafra agitation is currently very strong.
They should be telling President Buhari how to resolve both the Biafra agitation and the Niger Delta militancy.
I am not in support of violence and I urge both the Biafran agitators and the Niger Delta militants to advocate for their cause through non violent means.
I do not think secession is the answer. If I had the ear of the President, I would tell him that the federal government’s approach to Biafra agitators and Niger Delta militants is wrong. We should do what the United Kingdom did to Scotland. Pet them. Develop their region. Persuade them they are better off in Nigeria.
But I do not have the President’s ears so I count on Amaechi and Kachikwu to tell him for me.
Someone like Amaechi should know that abandoning a project like the Maritime University Okerenkoko will only serve to deepen the unrest in an already restive region.
The state that contributes the highest resources to the federal government is Akwa Ibom where Kachikwu confronted Amaechi. That state did not even have an airport until the state government built one with their own money!
Delta state had to build its own airport. The airport in Amaechi’s home state of Rivers was named by CNN as the worst airport in Africa in a broadcast on February 1, 2016.
Is this then the region that Amaechi wants to strip of whatever little infrastructure that she has?
Amaechi has this all wrong. He will serve Buhari better by explaining the Niger Delta to him than by explaining Buhari to the Niger Delta.
Amaechi should not get too carried away. Let him ask himself two questions. Where was President Buhari living before he became President? Was it not Daura and Katsina both in the Northwest? Where has former President Jonathan lived since he left power? Is it not Otuoke in the Niger Delta? Where has former President Obasanjo lived since 2007? Is it not at Ota and Abeokuta in the Southwest?
Abuja is sweet to call home when you are in power but when power leaves you (as it does to even the best of us) you will have no choice but to return to your mother’s house.
But one thing is clear going forward. Ibe Kachikwu has turned out to be the star in an otherwise lackluster cabinet. He had taught us the difference between a MINISTER and a ME-nister. A minister ministers to Nigerians while a me-nister ministers to his ego!
–– Omokri is the founder of the Mind of Christ Christian Center in California, author of Shunpiking: No Shortcuts to God and Why Jesus Wept and the host of Transformation with Reno Omokri