Restructuring Hate-Public Policies in National Democratic Life


Dafe Otobo

Afew days ago, as I slumped onto a chair in some eatery after one very hectic day at work, which also took in robust discussions on the state of the country, and watching some politicians and guest speakers on some random television station pontificating on same, when I overhead this very animated verbal exchange between two persons.

I do not know why God is so partial towards these Naija people, one said. Why do you say this, countered the other. Why not? He just waved his hand, all the fighting and selling their own people to North Africa, West Indies, the Americas…No, no, no, interjected the other. Who told you they were from Naija area? My friend, do not interrupt me. You sabi nothing! Go to Cuba, go to Haiti, go to Bahia in Brazil, you’ll find original Sango and juju rites…konk version… and millions in the Americas. Leave dat matter. Anyway, look, Oyinbo companies that were buying slaves, palm oil, and other things, built barracks and compounds in Lagos, and declared it a colony. Another strong oyinbo company commandeer the Niger Delta area and call-am Niger Delta Protectorate with headquarters at Old Calabar; while the traders and oyinbo soldiers, who don form army, just tear race pass Benin, Oyo, Ife, Ibadan and all the other Yoruba-speaking kingdoms and formed Protectorate Territories of Yorubaland, ruled from Lagos. Then, this ogbonge Colonel, Lugard, first work for trading company….Oh yes, that National African Company that became UAC?, offered the other. Yes-o, you try sef. Anyway this no-nonsense man nonsense in the oyinbo army make London appoint-am Governor of all the Protectorates. The man take soldiers scatter Ilorin, Zaria, Kano, Sokoto, and everywhere north of Lokoja and put capital for one small riverside village, Asaba. Asaba? Yes-o…dem rule Sokoto and Kanemi empires…dose Maiduguri and Boko Haram people…from Asaba. London come vex with oyinbo companies and all their wahala, just jam all the protectorates together as one Nigeria, capital in Lagos. Shikena! Chei! Yes-o, no bi small tin-o!
But…if I may ask, what is Protectorate? Which kain nonsense question be dat? If you like, call-am protectorate, province, region, state, local government area, same ten and ten pence – just divide natural communities into any number of groups you want for tax purposes….No, come on! interjects the other. Shooo! See me see trouble-o. Just jam military conquest with colonialism gbagam you get grandmother of all looting – women, men to work without pay, taxes in form of cowrie shells, cattle, paper money and whatever, rubber, palm oil, palm kernel, groundnuts, cotton…Be serious, my friend, protests the other. I am…oyinbo companies and their Naija agents all over the country were very nice and wonderful in buying all agricultural produce at the price they wanted, and you paid price they demanded for their imported goods! Very good business all round, abi? So, you are telling me this economic short-changing started long…My frend, my frend, take-am easy. Na business…but wetin you dey do with the rubber, cotton and others before? When oyinbo stop buying them, nko? Leave dat matter, joor. Na today?

Yes, yes…stutters the other…you were talking about protectorate. Yes, Protectorate. You see, power is good-o. Money too. Wen you blend both of them…hmmm…you near God-o! Stop blaspheming…My frend, siddon there. Hear me so? You fit do anything you want, you nor go remember you be human being…Look, look, I know this part of the story…Governor in Lagos, assisted by two High Commissioners (renamed Lieutenant-Governors), one in Enugu for Eastern Provinces and another in Kaduna for Northern Provinces, made whomever they liked emir, oba, kings, and whom they relied upon for “indirect rule” system of alkali and sharia courts, and created “chiefs” in areas in northern and southern provinces where such characters never existed to function like traditional rulers and dashed them “native courts” to do whatever they liked. The burdens of taxation, corruption and arbitrariness of ensuing administrative practices were so devastating in scale and defeating of any decent existence that from 1927 communities exploded in waves of riots, at Aba, Burutu, Warri, especially violent and extensive in Tivland in 1929, 1939, 1945, and 1949 and other areas that had successfully resisted Islam till that point. Ah, my friend you try too-o! Were you sabi all these ones? Pretty well documented…great scholars…Dike, Biobaku, Afigbo, Tamuno, Ikime, Ezera, Ade-Ajayi, Coleman, Sklar, Crowder, Billy Dudley…E do, e don doooo se…and Okonjo. Okonjo…which Okonjo? E fit be papa of dat former Minister woman-o…sabi book sha.

That’s not all. Nationalist politicians…I know, I know…Lugard and ‘im northern Deputy nor like Lagos, all the Lagos lawyers, Lagos Colony wen get ‘im own National Assembly, Supreme Court, High Court, Magistrate court, and co and co, abi? More than that…Lagos had over 40 years head-start, since 1862, in more democratic political practices Lugard wanted not only to roll back but prevent from “threatening” his “indirect rule” in the Northern Provinces. Not only were professionals of all description excluded from mainstream of colonial administration, lawyers in particular were prevented from practising by the simple device of denying legal representation to all those brought before the various courts. The Supreme Court of the Northern Provinces in its whole existence from 1900 to 1914 when amalgamation was decreed, tried no criminal cases, and only civil case. And when it was scrapped post-Lugard period in preference for Lagos-based Supreme Court for the whole country, the northern lieutenant-governors sought to restrict its activities to Lagos alone…Okay, Professor, dat one don pass, sha, abi? Not really…it was the beginning of Hate-Public Policies. Hate kini? Means official social, economic and other policies, institutions and administrative structures and practices based on racism, ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry – in short, discrimination along all dimensions. Ah…iwe…you sef. The policies were based on hate, thrived on hate, generated hate and created a disorganised national society. So, naim make all the lawyers and professionals wen full the political parties from 1930s and 1940s and with dose trade union people fit give fire-for-fire, pepper oyinbo yansh so-tay ‘im no know wen dem organise elections in 1951, give internal self-government 1954, arrange constitutional talks and knack Independence for ground for 1960, abi? To madala!

Dis your hate policies…Not mine, theirs. First, the colonial administration gave European public servants higher salaries and used everyone else without pay and began paying very little when people ran away from railway construction and other projects, and when workers in public services and private mining sector protested, used the soldiers, police, emirs, obas, chiefs, and the courts to suppress all and kill some. The routine, brutal attacks on demonstrators and strikers were adopted by succeeding nationalist politicians and security agencies, as if protests have nothing to do with correcting existing wrongs. This way, ought-to-be country-protective institutions, have become regime-survival/perpetuation instruments. Old boy, wetin naa? Small small…wetin dis one mean? For most politicians, politics is business and in course of doing whatever it is they do with power and hang on to it, create a mixture of few good things, challenges and problems for different segments of the population at different times. The National Assembly, civil service, judiciary, intelligence and security agencies, other parastatals, trade unions, students’ organisations, communities and other interest groups in society react and should function in a manner to ensure laid down procedures, the law and Constitution are duly followed and negative impacts of even well-intended policies are minimised, if not eliminated. I see-am now…so for example, security people nor suppose to use people money to organise counter-protest against order people wen dey demonstrate against one tin or de order…na the business of the party…and the demonstrators wan make government do the correct thing, abi? And if dem nor demonstrate, bad bad things go just dey continue. Yes, no dissent, no protests, no following procedures by those in authority, means no democratic life especially when the constitution itself overwhelmingly protects particular interests of those who imposed it. General Elections (General Elections because there have always been Elections right from ancient times, the issue being number of persons allowed to participate) are merely a more democratic way of electing persons into political positions and it is after that democracy as a way of life is reflected in checks and balances and decisions which protect and enhance individual, community and human rights. We see that power-drunk bigots and their minnows deceitfully hold out Elections as the beginning and end of Democracy. Not true, for a majority can perpetuate tyranny by merely voting to do so, as Adolf Hitler’s National Democratic Party voted democratically to exterminate Jews, or how we invented “Ghana-Must-Go-Bags” after Shehu Shagari’s political party sent packing overnight thousands of hapless and hardworking Ghanaian economic migrants amongst us on the shameless pretext of their planning to vote for the Opposition (not minding his government was in-charge of organising the general elections), or the National Assembly conniving with the military to occupy the Niger Delta and Southeast as a power-loving Chief of Army Staff fancies himself in the role of defining and decreeing, in a supposedly civil, democratic political dispensation, to the country and world his new terrorist organisations.
Second, the creation of regions…There was nothing smaller ethnic groups in Eastern, Northern and Western regions did not do to get their own regions but were denied by the colonial administration during and after the Big 3 in successive constitutional talks opposed them, and in spite of the fact that population-wise the smaller ethnic groups collectively constituted majority in each region. No…you dey joke, fa. Not at all…instead they became officially labelled, literally cursed and treated as minorities, with minority rights. Non-Hausa-Fulani people were ostracized outside protective walls of cities in “strangers’ quarters”, sabon garis, and when these grew rapidly the inhabitants were denied political representation, being under-handedly “indigenised”, much unlike in Lagos and Western region. But throughout the minority areas in Northern region, stretching from Ilorin, Minna, Jos, Mubi to Maiduguri, force was used to create local governments for Hausa-Fulani settlers. The random creation of new emirates and emirs in Northern region continued unabated (even attempted in Abuja decades much later), several met with resistance and violence, just as many kings and chiefs mushroomed in the Eastern and Western regions. Chief Anthony Enahoro’s 1954 “motion for Independence in 1956” was not only rejected in Northern region, it led to riots in which many Southerners were killed, especially in Kano. The trio of religious elite, so-called traditional rulers and cabals in political parties cemented their Hate-Producing Pact at constitutional conferences to include “House of Chiefs” as integral part of political administration of the country. Old Boy, chiefs borku for dis country, sha…Please be serious! Anyway, this highly volatile and virulently infectious concoction, given the passions of the times, boiled over within a year of Independence that by 1961, Big 2 and Big 3 feeding on Big 1 had advanced considerably, and not only was Chief Awolowo thrown into jail in 1962 for “treasonable felony” and Chief Anthony Enahoro hounded in the UK and brought home for “trial”, Midwest Region ripped off from Western Region in 1963 as the two-Bigs tightened their grip on “minorities” in their own heartlands, but also mangled the Western and Federal elections 1964-1965 so badly that such were accompanied by widespread riots and deaths, which then precipitated a constitutional crisis when the president refused to invite the prime minister to form a government. You nor see naaa…checks and balances good sha-o! Please can I finish? A few months later after a compromise was struck and a “national” federal government was formed, an “Administrator” earlier imposed on Western Region by the two-Bigs and its cabinet dissolved, came the January 15 1966 coup in which the prime minister, premier of the Northern region, premier of Western region, the federal minister of finance, and a few others, were killed and although “coupists” were drawn from all parts of the country, largely because Maj. Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the highest-ranking officer assumed command and was slow at putting the coupists on trial (and were in fact being paid while awaiting trial though under detention) and the president and premier of Eastern region did not also lose their lives, it was branded “Igbo Coup”. The other “grievances” aired by “northern” officers were the Unification Decree that abolished all regions; rumours of an “Igbo coup” to eliminate northern soldiers (very much an afterthought many have argued); the promotion of several Igbo Majors to Lt Colonel; plans to swap the 1st and 4th battalions and to rotate the military governors of the different regions before scrapping them.

The “northern” officers “revenge killings” began six months later in July led by Lt Col. Murtala Muhammed and Major Theophilus Danjuma, the latter’s group killing Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his host in Ibadan, Lt. Col Fajuyi, and in a radio broadcast declared the “North” was leaving Nigeria, but were later talked out of it by some top civil servants and the British and American diplomats as Lt Col Gowon, the highest-ranking “northern officer” assumed leadership of the group and as thousands of “southerners”, especially Igbo, civilians, were massacred by soldiers and civilians alike all over the North – dubbed the pogroms.

The “northern” officers having produced the first haunting example of possible secession by any part, an example that has refused to go away since then, the counter-reaction came in July 1967 with the declaration of biafra in the Eastern region by Col Ojukwu who, like other senior officers, saw no reason why a junior officer should be “commander in chief”, not to speak of single-handedly restructuring the country into twelve states…then followed a three-year long civil war. Many have doubted whether the restructuring of the four regions into twelve states by decree would have occurred had General Gowon been a Muslim and Hausa or Fulani or both. He probably would not be surprised, with the possible exception of Col. Joe Garba, about those in the junta who subsequently overthrew him, the signs obvious even as the Civil War raged late 1960s. In less than a year after, mostly northern minority military officers in return killed General Murtala Muhammed in an aborted coup. The larger irony, of course, once in power, the conspirators became more enamoured by and obsessed with the centralised control unification exercise could bring more than Aguiyi-Ironsi himself ever envisaged! Anyhow, the states increased to nineteen, twenty-one, thirty and then to thirty-six…Nobi true at all…na thirty-seven. What? Yes naa…Abuja na corner-corner wayo state, abi you nor dey see well? The number of states, distribution, size, and their capitals all imposed by the respective partisan juntas, the orchestrated “opinion-gathering” notwithstanding as was the case in 1989 when political party formation process, in General Babangida’s self-succession bid, ended with two imposed parties of “a little bit to the right”, and “a little bit to the left”, and General Abacha was the only presidential candidate for all the political parties he allowed to exist. Since then, the imposed politico-administrative structure has proved unsatisfactory by all objective standards, whether as regards equity in the number in the North vis-à-vis the South, or distribution of power and resources between the centre and the states, between the states, and between states and local governments. And only a few understand the non-existent basis for this spurious “Six Geopolitical Zones” that has been used off and on to rationalise all manner of self-serving decisions and actions.
Third…form of government. decentralisation was the critical organising principle in Colonial and First Republic regionalisations, for the obvious reality of vastness of land, and multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious composition of the population. Of the First Republic, a non-Executive President oversaw the State, albeit in a multi-party parliamentary system where the Prime Minister elected by the party with most seats, was invited by the President to form a government. The regions had their respective Assemblies and governments, the latter formed by party with majority of seats, (with House of Chiefs fitting in uncomfortably somewhere) and Divisions. The centre only exercised control over foreign affairs, immigration, and military. centralisation, the opposite, has been the opium of partisan juntas after Gowon’s regime especially, one of the heinous (sic) crimes of Gen Gowon was allowing respective State Military Governors too much freedom in managing their affairs (remember Unification Decree?)! The Executive Presidential type enthroned by the partisan juntas or putschists in both 1979 and 1999 Constitutions is of yet-to-be determined specie or model, save for its tendency towards central monopoly of power and not-to-be lamented elimination of House of Chiefs. Some dubious claims of its being the American type are ill-considered, sheer propaganda as the American States are in the mould of our First Republic’s Regions, decentralised governance and institutionalisation of social and political control in local governments and related structures, where, for example, medical doctors, accountants, lawyers, even trained in best universities, without passing professional examinations and procedures of each State cannot practice in it! Each state has its own written constitution and code of laws, the only requirement imposed by the American constitution is that each state must have “a Republican Government” – that is, a civil democratic one, not controlled by the equivalents of a mixed-bag of cabals, self-opinionated putschists in mufti, small tyrants, kings, emirs, obas, chiefs, Imams, etc. And except for Nebraska, each state has an elected House of Representatives and a Senate. There is no Inspector General of Police commanding Commissioners of Police in the states; each state has its own police force, like we had from 1954 to January 1966. A State can even deny one status of Resident and you may then move to another.

Fourth, centralisation of power and personalisation of loyalty. Easily the deadliest poisons to our national democratic life are personalisation of loyalty and concentration of political and administrative powers at the centre, initiated and controlled by partisan juntas then and now via the 1999 Constitution and political party cabals, some cabals themselves dominated by ex-juntas in mufti. A military coup is an unpatriotic, treasonable conspiracy by a handful of officers against the military establishment, the government and the State. The glue holding such officers together is an unstable blend of personal loyalty, and spoils of office. We have over the years erroneously spoken of, and written about military regimes in Nigeria; they were actually juntas – small cliques of officers, openly driven by sectional aims and bigotry, holding to ransom thousands of enlisted uniformed public servants in the Army, Navy and Air Force who, with bowed heads and great trepidation (they had lives, families and careers to protect, you see) carried out given assignments as hijacked intelligence units in those services breathed down their necks round the clock in search of “enemies” and “traitors” and specially equipped armoured units mounted guard over all other severely under-armed infantry units. An Army, or Navy or Air Force where a General cannot talk to a Major and its equivalent or cannot have him/her disciplined because he/she belongs to inner caucus or close to those close to the inner caucus should not and cannot be a proper military organisation – hence no military regimes as the military organisation was never in control except under the Gowon regime. A retiring Army Chief of Staff in the early 1990s in his farewell address had observed that the Army/Military “is where everything/anything goes”; he knew what he was talking about.

The Shehu Shagari’s administration stood a most regrettable interlude for putschists, whatever were its failings, including ever-present corruption, the most disliked failing was as democratic checks and balances kicked in, some adverse Supreme Court rulings and protests by organised labour, undiluted control at the centre began to intolerably, to them, give way and that was bad for expected economic and other returns – and he was kicked out. The most accurate description of the succeeding junta would be it was at war with itself, with every organisation, with every organised group in society, with everything except concentration of power in the headship – which also discarded the Christian/Moslem formula for first two political positions; both putschists were unapologetically Moslems. In the end, the putschists ensured that no more states could be created by imposing a condition of consent by two-thirds of the states in the 1999 Constitution!

Fifth – human resource management policies and practices. The military chain of command as first casualty of coups, arbitrariness takes over as some officers are killed, some held under detention, and others summarily dismissed or retired in intermittent waves. One need not be jaundiced to take it for granted that over eighty per cent of those affected were from the South. Promotions and postings or[D1] deployments are for the favoured and to buttress partisan junta’s survival and further hold on power. It is when attention is turned to the civil service, parastatals and other government departments that the carnage reaches crescendo. Overnight General Murtala decimated the public service, retiring close to 10,000 top and middling public servants, the cream, by all accounts. Again, we need not guess where most of them were from. Most experts have concluded Nigeria is yet to recover from this single action; these public servants with governments of the First Republic and the Gowon regime provided cross-country solid infrastructures and refineries that putschists specialised in corruptly running aground these past decades! These arbitrary retrenchments were carried out with great relish and gusto by all juntas, except for Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar’s period, driven by hate and bigotry. Considering all parastatals, including police, customs[D2] and immigration were treated similarly, the extent of organisational inefficiencies wrought and humiliation and demoralisation inflicted on thousands of competent men and women in service of their country, are beyond imagination. You retire the top fifty and more officers for an in-law to head Immigration or Police or Customs. An unparalleled bizarre imposition was of a journalist as Governor of the Central Bank! We don see sometin, sha!

The other side of the coin has been the blatantly skewed recruitment, placement and promotion of public servants despite a Federal Character Commission, a great many inexperienced hands transferred from favoured state governments to the centre. Military officers are catapulted through the ranks to become even generals without having passed any mandatory exam in courses or training attended. And undeniably more devastating has been the political decapitation of ministries and parastatals whose professional heads have been declared “political appointees” with the attendant effect of determination of policies by whims and caprices of those who appointed them, not outcomes of well thought-through options via various technically competent internal committees of experts, as transfigured permanent secretaries and director-generals out of self-interest and realism are too frightened and unwilling to transmit above what lower officers and experts have arrived at. All bureaucracies are designed to make possible rational decision-making and outcomes in spite of biases and other human weaknesses, hence a clear stipulation of processes, qualifications, the career structure, compensation levels, and conditions for promotion, resignation, termination and dismissal. Waking up one morning, as has been the case in the NNPC and other parastatals, and “retire” officers who have no disciplinary cases against them and not served their thirty-five years in service, and catapult favoured persons who do not meet requirements as written, to top positions is not only destructive of the system by undermining the main sinews for national development and administration but also has wider ramifications for public sector compensation relativities and notions of fairness in democratic life. For example, during the First Republic, the permanent secretary (not all, being classified, with external affairs and economic development, and finance in highest group) earned ₤3000 per annum and the professor ₤3200; during the Abacha-led junta, the former N7800 and professor N7300; since General President Obasanjo administration, the former earns between N10 million and N18 million and professor N6 million, the latter not being in the camp of putschists and a question of brute force to do and get what you want. And since 1999, the arbitrarily fixed salaries and perks of LEGISLATORS have “gone nuclear”, as my students often say, actual amounts literally treated as classified and fudged, depending on which allowances are deliberately left out (since some are paid monthly, yearly, and others every five years) ranging, one is told, between N10 million and N45 million a year, the problem not residing with the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) but with the National Assembly, Auditor-General and a totally superfluous Fiscal Responsibility Commission invented by General President Obasanjo whose functions, by the way, RMAFC should take over. Whatever has been recommended by the RMAFC is not only subject to the approval of the National Assembly, the National Assembly naturally in self-interest modifies them and pays monies directly to legislators with which to run their respective offices, pay rent, and cover travels and other activities legislators engage in, amounts only the Clerk of the House and Auditor General can verify and query. What may be said is that there are scientific, practical and historical reasons in all countries why pay for all public officials bear a logical relationship between them, differentials which embody position in the hierarchy, fairness, and standardised components of compensation packages. For example, a good friend of mine, a former Governor, spoke of receiving N200 million “severance package” – although he was not being “severed” as tenure ran its stipulated course (aside from all former governors retaining also some domestic and security staff on public funds) after a very long eight-year tenure and a monthly non-contributory pension of about N750,000, compared to a professor who after very short 40 years has contributory pension of about N12 million gross (no gratuity), which may be accessed via a PFA for about N150,000 monthly survival allowance. Excepting Nigeria, no public sector compensation system is run this way, because no institution (e.g. National Assembly, House of Assembly) should have the legal competence to unilaterally distort it at will and undermine the fairness embedded in it. Eight years are long enough for Ministry of Lands and Housing, and Ministry of Works to obtain and construct a building, with direct labour to minimise cost, for any Governor as “severance” assuming such must be the case. And like my friend pointed out, his state was the LEAST GENEROUS on these matters, others include paid-for periodic foreign family trips and other allowances, not to mention many past governors have other pension before occupying that position. Going by these practices, there should then be graduated severance package, in relation to rank, for all public servants, since their services to the country are no less important, and the abandonment of most of the much-trumpeted “pension reforms” and the 2005 Pension Act itself, whose provisions are obviously being selectively and punitively applied. And when you add the fact of many deserving public servants have not been promoted since 2007, we cannot be aiming at evolving an efficient, well-motivated and corruption-free public administration. This buttresses my suggestion over the years why only the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission should handle public sector compensation as it has an integrated template for all salaries and fringe or non-money benefits for the sector and allow the RMAFC, currently in very competent hands, to focus on revenue mobilisation and fiscal matters. There has to be wholesale restructuring of public sector compensation and the relevant institutions now, of which KPMG has vast experience at doing. The surprise (SHOCK, is perhaps more accurate) is ASUU, NASU and other trade unions have not brought the university system and public sector activities to a screeching halt until these are done!

Sixth…education policies. Pre-primary, primary and secondary institutions have always been private sector driven, governments establishing only a handful of these schools since colonial times. The two most critical regulatory bodies have been WAEC and JAMB, both venomously and consistently attacked by some politicians and traditional leaders for the “poor performance” of some children from their domains. Rather than Nigeria taking the lead in increasing a continental scope for WAEC, a local NECO was created, presumably to make passing O’Levels “easier”. For the federally-controlled secondary and tertiary institutions, a cursory look at admission criteria – not to speak of recruitment, placement and promotion policies – reveal just how much twisted perspectives prejudices can breed. The admissions formula is 45% for Merit, 35% for Catchment Area, and 20% for Educationally Disadvantaged States! Catchment Area in effect is “tribalisation”, a device for reserving places for children from a group of states or ethnic group in secondary and tertiary institutions, funded from the general purse, but located in their immediate environs! Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara are the so-called educational less advantaged states. States educationally disadvantaged by whom? They have a predominance of children from poor homes? They were prevented by others from implementing universal basic education policy and those before it? Some of these states, for political and religious considerations, even seized private secondary schools over which they could exercise maximum control. And one cannot fail but notice those appointed to head education policy-making and implementing institutions – Federal Ministry of Education and its Departments and Parastatals under it – have substantially been drawn from these same states also. Or, that their statutory allocations were so minuscule that they could not budget handsomely for education, not minding the paltry nearly three-quarters of a billion naira spent on purchasing a building in Abuja for just one person, a turbaned brigadier-general, in one of them? The bottom line, some 55% of those admitted (catchment area and educationally less advantaged) have totally irrational and unmerited lower entry marks or cut-off points, and even among them some have much lower cut-off marks still in a downward spiral of mediocrity at entry point into these institutions! It took a court case to compel JAMB, after some 37 years of its existence, to have same cut-off points for all children only a few months ago, having hitherto arbitrarily awarded discriminatory cut-off points to states of its choice! Indeed, JAMB consistently fought against universities which sought to develop additional internal tests to improve upon quality of intakes. We thus find that in all federally funded tertiary institutions, the admissions formula is so stage-managed to ensure over 85% of those admitted come from a few ethnic groups around where they are physically located. Ethnic consciousness and divisions are thus driven deep into our children’s psyche quite early by a few bigots who see all this as part of sharing the “national cake” and behave as if God concentrated children with high IQs in certain parts of the country and who would otherwise take up available places if a purely merit-based formula were applied. A similar discriminatory system is then also used in offering jobs, placement and promotion in the public services after the children graduate, and some wonder why there has been widespread disenchantment! And upon failing to relocate from Effurun to Kaduna the Petroleum Training Institute, the only petroleum training university in one of the ten highest oil-producing countries in the world has one building decorating the bushes on its permanent site. Disenchantment, from all evidence which has been of no concern to the beneficiaries of these warped arrangements, is the least of the ills such a system produces and can produce.

Seventh – economic and development policies/projects. Projects and their locations, aside from personnel appointments and contracts, have been the main gains of greed and parochial considerations, being so many one would mention only a few by way of illustration. A refinery in Kaduna and spend what could easily buy another refinery to lay cross-country pipelines to convey crude oil to it. Distribute steel mills to favoured sites, most of which died at birth, excepting Delta Steel, and Ajaokuta one is yet to-be-born despite millions of dollars expended. The cancellation of the Lagos Metroline project. The relocation of capital from Lagos to Abuja, wondering what the billions of dollars spent and still being spent on developing the latter would have done for the economy and country. The centralisation of powers in, and relocation of NNPC Headquarters to Abuja by people who travel regularly to Houston, the North American oil-capital that is neither American capital nor that of state of Texas but economies of scale are reaped by companies and the government alike because of concentration of activities where oil and gas are located. The abandonment of railway system in preference for uneconomic, long distance road haulage dominated by a few persons favoured by putschists and whose trucks/trailers park dangerously by roadsides throughout the country causing deaths by accidents, breaking the roads, render them impassable and yet their drivers remain untouchable to law enforcement agents. The construction of a none-to-little value added Abuja-Kaduna rail line, on borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars, in preference to second bridge over the River Niger in the East. The sheer neglect of the ports at Calabar, Warri, Koko, Burutu, and other places for millions of dollars frittered away in ostensibly dredging of uppermost areas of River Niger to create inland ports in the North. The concentration of hydro-electric power generation, as distinct from irrigation schemes, in northern parts rather than most of the south with heavy rainfall, rivers and water abound all year round. Federal road development followed same pattern, and in all its years in road development, the Petroleum Trust Fund did not construct a single road anywhere in the Niger Delta region, the area where the PTF’s funds were derived, the official explanation one understood was that the terrain would render cost of construction too high. Even the funds devoted to redesigning and constructing all manner of roads in and around Abuja are more than sufficient to rehabilitate the East-West trunk road. Have you ever had any concrete data on the contribution of solid minerals to the economy and those quietly making millions from them? Now in vogue is modular refining, but obsession with centralised control tends to pervert good projects even before they are embarked upon, hence the proposal to construct six of those in the South-South zone, all controlled by centre like the existing barely-functioning refineries. The main and valid criticism has always been that those who control the NNPC, by imposing high minimum refining capacity ensure only very large and transnational companies can invest in refineries. The general principle governing private enterprise is that the investor decides on scale of investment, and so for modular refineries, leave it to any Nigerian company or investor to decide whether 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000, or 20,000 barrels per day capacity is what it or she/he wishes to invest in. Regulatory authorities are merely to certify that processes are environmentally friendly, safe for workers and nearest communities. But should the federal government want to quickly wind down importation of refined petroleum products by investing in relatively less expensive modular refineries, such should be without prejudice to other Nigerians doing same. Otherwise, old and especially profitable habits die harder and we would be back to where we started – the latter being the aim of those gaining most from existing arrangements and pushing for central control.

Wait…wait…wait first. Na true say for long time now, pass thirty years sef some people talk, one oil rig dey tanda for Lake Chad pretend to drill, abi explore, for oil and dem dey charge dis country half million dollars every day…abi na every week sef I nor fit remember-am well…and some people just dey pocket the money? Hmmm…let me say that Shell-BP conducted seismic surveys all over the country, including our side of the Lake Chad area, and found traces of or non-commercial quantity of oil deposits there. It might well be that more sophisticated equipment and methods now justify, aside from such off-and-on beggar-thy-neighbour “bad belle” talk of “we have oil too”, more intensive search, you never know. As for being a scam, given all the reports on fake oil liftings, oil blocks and more, including all the elaborately choreographed publicity on recent efforts in that direction and which Boko Haram seems to have tragically disrupted, do not rule out that possibility. Monies are looted in obvious and sometimes mysterious and devious ways in this country. This rumour of yours deserves investigation by the EFCC and other relevant agencies.

Eight – revenue allocation formula…There have been eight ad hoc revenue allocation commissions since 1946 – viz: Philipson Commission (1946), Chick’s Commission (1953), Raisman Commission (1958), Binns Commission (1964), Dina commission (1966), Aboyade Committee (1977), and Okigbo Commission (1980) – when the fiscal battle began in earnest. The nationalists politicians, right up to 15 January 1966 coup, the least dishonest of all Nigerian politicians, understood the essentials of colonialism to be naked stealing and appropriation of assets of various communities and of militarily subjugated indigenous political rulership and so the fight for Political Independence was by its nature a process of undoing these. Many of them, notable businessmen and women in their own right, understood quite clearly too the logic of private enterprise economy since they were not trying to create a communist or socialist system where land, houses and all minerals are controlled by the government, despite the Cold War, and after intense collective negotiations put principle of derivation at some 50% in the revenue sharing formula – to drastically reduce scale of formal stealing. The junta wasted no time in undoing these negotiated arrangements by first reducing Derivation percentage to anything between 1% and 13%, and cemented this with their Petroleum Decree 1969 which vested the “entire ownership and control of all petroleum in, under or upon any lands in the State”. And to put a protective fence round their property, the whole country, the putschists spectacularly outdid the Lands Proclamation of 1900 (which the colonial dictatorial regime used in seizing all lands in the north with the provision “All grants of occupation, use or enjoyment of land, whether for general or specific purposes, should be in the nature of Leases and Licences and not grants of the absolute property or freehold interest.”) with Land Use Decree that dispossessed all Nigerian communities of their natural right to their own lands (strictly, it is extending Lands Proclamation 1900 to southern Nigeria). While the colonial Mineral Regulation (Oil) Ordinance of 1907 was primarily concerned with ensuring that “only British subjects or companies controlled by British subjects would be eligible to explore for oil resources,” the combined effect of the Petroleum Decree and Land Use Decree (without any exaggeration whatsoever and really an understatement) is a return to a form of modern slavery, where a handful of former military officers and cabals spawned by them can do whatever they like with land and minerals – as has been the case. These two Decrees were some of the “no-go areas” pressed on all at “constitutional conferences” and embedded in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions of a supposedly civil and federal republic!
The 1977 Aboyade Revenue Allocation Commission’s Report, appointed by General Obasanjo, was rejected by Alhaji Shehu Shagari as being “too technical” and his efforts at unilaterally managing allocation were stymied by the courts till his kingmakers removed him. The Babangida junta reviewed the allocation formula four times and left it as Federal, 55%; States, 32.5%; Local Government, 10%; and allocation to oil mineral-producing states and general ecological problems 1.5% and 1% respectively. The Abacha junta imposed Federal, 48.5%; States, 24%; Local Government, 20%; Special Fund, 7.5%. Under General President Obasanjo, and by Presidential Executive Order, Federal, 52.68%; States, 26.72%; Local Government, 20.60%. The naïve might think what goes to the federal government has been the only bone of contention until we examine the factors that determine how whatever goes to State governments collectively is shared among and between them – equality of states (the oil-producing areas having only six states of the thirty-six, this criterion attracting at least 40% of total funds), population 30% (the more populous states are in the East, West and central northern parts), landmass 10% (larger states in mostly northern parts), internally generated revenue 10% (mostly generated in Lagos area, some in PH-Warri axis and Kaduna) and Development Factor 10%. So, the same people who imposed the states, drew their boundaries, turn round to compensate themselves for the landmass they drew, of which most of the physical infrastructure therein have been federally funded, and take more money for having the population they are yet to develop along with the landmass! And that is not all…the Development Factor has Education, 4%; Health, 3% and Water 3%. Of Education, school enrolment has a percentage shared in relation to numbers enrolled, a percentage considered unfair by northern states because of lower enrolment, who then demanded additional out of the general pool as “encouragement” to enrol more children in schools by next revenue sharing exercise! As for Water, aside from getting most of these funds under this heading, we earlier noted the investment in water-related projects by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and its agencies have deliberately and overwhelmingly been in the northern states. All this reminds me of advertisement jingle for the defunct African Continental Bank, “for dis corner, e dey there; for dat corner, e dey there”! Simply amazing! How prejudice and greed can rationalise and defend the improbable.

Lastly…restructuring – Restructuring is an aspect of the much older term and phenomenon called “reform”. A modern meaning of the word “reform” would offer the following: a) to put or change into an improved form or condition; b) to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses; c) to put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action; and d) to induce or cause to abandon evil ways (reform a drunkard). What all these meanings of “Reform” point to clearly is improving upon a current situation that is considered to be unsatisfactory. This is partly why Restructuring is captured by such catch-phrases as: “No condition is permanent”; “The only thing constant in life is change”, and “Every action causes a reaction”. Logically and factually, practically all major measures have positive and negative consequences, intended and unintended, with the best of intentions – hence continuous monitoring and efficacy of the feedback loop or arrangements would be critical to the relative success of any restructuring or reform exercise and, more crucially, to minimising and eliminating adverse impacts and thus a much-improved new condition.

Restructuring, we may sense from all of the above, comes in various formats. One could restructure a process or procedure, say, of designing and implementing leave roster, or payment of salaries of all federal public servants taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria (of which an unintended consequence is impacting negatively on the disciplinary and other administrative procedures in tertiary educational institutions), or procedure for acquisitions and purchases, or method of payment and collection of personal or corporate tax, and method of preparing a budget, method or process of importing and distributing refined petroleum products. Or, restructuring might be of institutional type: a sub-unit of or the whole organisation or politico-administrative structure of a country may itself be restructured, by rearranging roles, span of control and positions and levels in the hierarchy, or how several organisations (National Assembly, Presidency, States and LGAs) may, in fact, relate to one another. Or, restructuring might be that of access to some value: social justice, freedom and mode of worship, procedure for accessing land (e.g. Land Use Act), or funds for agricultural purposes, unemployment benefits, health and medical services, housing, education, right to vote, freedom of association, right to abortion, right to speak freely, right to free movement, etc. Quite often, certain restructuring exercises involve not only the three forms simultaneously, but also push for a rank-ordering of values, processes and institutions at one go – and which is the case with National Conferences or Constitutional Talks.

In multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural countries with communities differentially endowed with human, mineral and other resources of economic value, the basis for common citizenship, not being automatic by definition, has to be carefully and deliberately crafted because such admixture is naturally problematic. All around us, happenings everywhere, in the Middle East, European Union, United States of America, the United Kingdom (Scots, Welsh, Irish and English/Anglo-Saxon) and our own civil war and socio-political developments since then say so most eloquently. More importantly, a more fractious polity, aside from being part-outcome of improved avenues for voicing one’s views on any matter (sometimes libellously, sometimes raucously, and other times subdued by teargas and other strong-arm tactics of law enforcement agencies maintaining “law and order” and “public peace”), is also traceable to the reaction of partisan state authorities to the drawing of attention by those individuals, groups and communities so affected, to those unsatisfactory conditions. Quite often, due to a combination of factors, usually ideological preferences, largely unbridled competition for and control of political power and sectional and much narrower considerations, the needs of and preferences advocated by some groups and persons “lose” legitimacy before the eyes of partisan state authorities – particularly legislators and presidency, security and intelligence agencies and political cabals – and such groups’ or communities’ activities directed at protecting, promoting and pursuing their interests, ostensibly like other interest groups in society, attract negative labels – anti-government, subversive, ill-conceived, illegal, terrorists, etc. – and dealt with accordingly. Countervailing reaction by such groups, persons and communities and partisan state authorities’ own further actions all tend to create a seemingly vitriolic, unstable social, political and economic environment, held, locally and internationally, to be “unfavourable” to investment and development, including the relative absence of some of those physical and social infrastructures long-demanded by the groups and communities not so endeared to partisan state authorities and other better-connected interest groups at that juncture.

All this is not a judgement call, but to highlight the hate-driven logic of the long-standing, hate-producing public, political and economic policies and actions, corrosive of nationalism and patriotism, being indisputably fuelled by parochial, regional, ethnic, and religious sentiments and bigotry and which have brought to the FORE the rational questioning of the basis for continued common citizenship in many quarters and levels of society.
On this take, the current round of so-called hate speeches from all sides owe little to election defeat since a typical politician always blames actual and imagined rivals or the opposition for any unpopular development or occurrence, a variant of the well-known psychological disorder of the oppressor blaming victims for his own actions. Then, again, you never know…a retired Admiral and former governor was quoted to have publicly bragged about how “we dealt with the Igbos and Yoruba are next”, obviously pitifully ignorant of the fact of most officers and men of the Second and Third Divisions who bore the brunt of the fighting during the Civil War were drawn largely from Western Region and Northern and Southern minority ethnic groups. A top politician also announced how “they” would make the country “ungovernable” for President Jonathan. It would be stretching the imagination beyond limits to think President Jonathan summoned a National Conference because he liked such things, selected and ordered all the participants to show up, grouped them into various committees, compelled them to produce reports and append their signatures to the Final Report. And he was so power-drunk and ambitious that he forgot to restructure in line with contents of the Report. Ahhhh. Hate speeches? Na today?

So, we have less than half a million “fellow” Nigerians nationwide holding everybody to ransom because of their greed and narrow-mindedness, specialising in divisive policies that from the middle-belt to Bornu, western states to southeast and south-south, any of these at very short notice can restructure to have their own security organisations, civil service, parastatals, economy and military outfits capable of, like Israel in the Middle-East, holding off all others and you better believe it – and European Union, the USA, UK, Canada, China, Russia and lesser powers will easily back such rearrangements as long as ethnic and religious bigots keep on this way against all odds and we end up in violence. A million and more refugees from Nigeria will collapse all the economies in ECOWAS. Nigeria and the world have changed a good deal since 1967 and we now have over 80 million young ones under 30 who must find a living against these CABALS having monopoly over land and mineral resources. Even for a booming economy anywhere in the world, not more than 10% can be salary/wage earners as companies and investors do not go into business to create jobs because there is mass unemployment; only those jobs and tasks which guarantee profits. The current economic down-turn might have increased anxieties and poverty, but is not the cause of the general malaise, simmering anger, palpable tension and periodic outbreaks of violence. It would be dishonest to so claim..

The Senate President is a bright young man and I trust him to understand fully the lay of the land. So, Mr Senate President, kindly rouse your various sleepy committees and let’s pump some adrenalin into our growing but severely threatened national democratic life by taking the following democratic steps to undo what have been undemocratically foisted on us – but keep the Senators on the standby to override presidential veto, if any. Should you need services of a small team of legal minds and analysts on the side, that one can put together in no time at all…but you go pay me small, shaa. First, repeal the Petroleum Act pending final determination by a National Constitutional Conference. Second, not only remove Land Use Act from the Constitution, bury it deep more than six feet permanently under the ground without a coffin – dust to dust. From 1951 to 1966 Nigerian peasant farmers fed us and European, British, Japanese, American and other foreign industries with groundnuts, cotton, palm oil, palm kernel, rubber and other agricultural produce with our customary land tenure systems, common law principles on sale of goods and other contractual relations, and Islamic Property Law in operation. And these did not hamper the development of the solid infrastructure from 1954 to 1965 that putschists, as earlier noted, corruptly and incompetently ran aground. What has been the state of agriculture and everything else with a Land Use Act? Easily the most Anti-Nigeria contrivance in our national history. Third, decentralise the NNPC immediately.

The subsidiaries originally were (and are in law) Autonomous Limited Liability Companies, with own boards and engaged employees directly. As political capital moved to Abuja, so did the NNPC headquarters; as political power centralisation in Aso Rock intensified, so did NNPC Group HQ drain and centralise control over subsidiaries to a point of engaging and posting staff to them. Unbundling is the big word for returning to their original autonomous subsidiaries – but…PPIB is mostly old wine in new bottles, to continue with barely disguised excessive centralised control. One argument offered in defence of retaining NNPC Group HQ in some form is its overseeing of national investments in the oil and gas industry. This is mistaken because, one, the Subsidiaries are already doing that; two, there is the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and, three, there is a section of the Federal Ministry of Finance which has the statutory responsibility to watch over all federal government’s investments. Fourth, remove from the Constitution and annul any law which accords permanent secretary and director general “political appointees” status for such has almost irreparably damaged the professionalism and technical competence of civil service and parastatals on whose shoulders effective public administration and national development rest. In any case, public oversight function usually lies with boards on which politicians and citizens may be appointed.

Fifth, revisit statutory structure and composition of each parastatal and agency and change position of executive chairman to chairman for the former are of no use in the public sector, become de facto several “mini-executive presidents” and an unnecessary expense we can do without. Sixth, related to the Fifth, revisit statutory structure and composition of each parastatal and agency to eliminate forever the imposition of outsiders as their heads, like a retired Colonel as Comptroller-General of Customs of whom we last heard of in October 1997 for “sacking” all the civil servants in Kaduna State, some 30,000 men and women, for objecting to a decision of his. Thousands of women and men in the services and agencies, proud of their work, lives and uniforms even when only one person can rise to the ultimate position, not to get demoralised, debased by foisting on them a head that cannot be proud of such uniform because he does not belong there in the first place. And not done, brags to the public he only reports to Mr President who put him there, not the Federal Ministry of Finance to whom all revenue-yielding agencies statutorily make returns. That is not the culture and ethos of the public service; square peg in round hole. Quite similarly is the confirmation of Chairman of EFCC. The American President would have sent in another name by now for Senate confirmation and the position of the executive head of the Commission should not be left vacant for any length of time without slipping into illegality, aside from other operational difficulties, especially as there is no provision for the position of “Acting Chairman”. For being there and being paid at all, illegality is already being committed, and I am particularly pained because the EFCC and SSS are two of my favourite institutions doing all the hard work – not good for the EFCC’s efforts at uplifting the moral tone in the country and for constitutionalism and Democracy. Indeed, it is such disdain for procedures that accounts for most of the corruption in our body politic. In any case, resignation letters of staff should not be addressed to Mr President because the Commission is the employer. Still doubting we have not quite left the mid-1980s and 1990s behind? Seventh, start discussing the Report left behind by President Goodluck Jonathan, taking care to get rid of all the “no-go” areas and thereafter let general talks begin.

Finally, politicians, in and out of government, should be a bit more conscious of their own mindsets and attendant utterances. “The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable” means several things: a) the utterer forbids any discussion of it, and which then logically attracts the question “You own Nigeria?”; and b) this question is followed by “who determines what is to be negotiated?” I suspect in light of all happenings that have been analysed here, questions like these will dominate collective discourse in the months, if not years, ahead. If you love this country, do what is democratically determined because you are what you do, and seeking to impose biased and personal choices will meet with opposition sooner or later. Fighting corruption, the starting point is not all Diezanis’ millions but the immediate dismantling of all the brutalising and dehumanising, money-extorting check-points that have turned the country into a militarily besieged and occupied territory for decades, in the clear understanding that over 170 million Nigerians and myself remain quite happy living here, in spite of everything else, and not in Dubai, Riyadh, Madrid, Paris, London, Toronto (with or without certificate), Atlanta, New York, Geneva, Rome, and other favourite foreign haunts of yours. A few days ago, between Shagamu and Ore, a distance of some 300 kilometres, I counted 21 check-points, making an average of one check-point per 14 kilometres! How many check-points do you see in those favourite places of yours? Stop pointing accusing fingers at each other; just scrap policies and measures that are making people feel harassed, oppressed and impoverished to start with.

––Professor Dafe Otobo is of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos.