Life after Oil

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DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN, Email: akin.osuntokun@thisdaylive.com

DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN, Email: akin.osuntokun@thisdaylive.com

First, my sympathies to the peoples of the Niger Delta.They are, in a manner of speaking, a tragic micro victim of a macro Nigeria victim. Alongside lumbering Nigeria, they must be contemplating life after oil – with the terminal lifespan of the oil industry in active and acute contemplation. After enduring a lifelong gratification of the insatiable lust of Nigeria, the Niger Delta is about to be dumped by fate and the abuser. Afterall, is this imagery not consistent with Nigeria’s foundational amorality (formulated and executed by Lord Lugard for Nigeria) as the consummation of a “marriage between the rich wife of substance and means and the poor husband-which would then lead to a happy life for both”? However, if the imposed wedlock was ever a happy union, it had since degenerated to a sad catholic marriage – sustained by the Republican party creed of legitimate rape. In the course of time, the creed was boosted by a potent doctrinal intervention namely the doctrine of the ancestral ownership entitlement of our forebears up North.The doctrine is as significant as the identity of the personality who propounded it, the late Dr. Bala Usman.

In a landmark research publication, he unearthed the hidden knowledge that the crude oil deposit in the Niger Delta creeks is ultimately traceable to the faecal waste of our primeval era ancestors dwelling in the Savannah plains across the Niger. Really?
Here is Usman’s thesis- “The geological process of the formation of the Niger Delta and of the crude oil and natural gas formed in some of its sedimentary formations, actually goes much further back than ten thousand years” contends the historian.

Now in full flight, he soldiered on, “But the reality, which those who are using the issue of the federal control of the petroleum resources found in all parts of Nigeria, including in the Niger Delta, to attack the basis of the cooperate existence of Nigeria, do not want to accept, is that these sediments with which, and in which, this petroleum deposits are found, did not drop from the sky”.

And concludes with this earth shattering revelation, “These sediments are made up of soil containing vegetable, and other organic materials, including human, and animal, faeces and remains, which were washed away from farmland, pasture and forests all over Nigeria and outside and carried by the Niger to form its delta and all the minerals in it”.

Beyond this peculiar history, the creeks have provided me with one of the most depressing spectacles I have ever encountered. I came face to face with the real time spectre of swamp (creek) dwellers scooping water to drink while washing their bodies and defecating into the same muddy cesspool all at the same time in a habitat bordering the edges of River Nun. My friend piled on me and requested I take a look at the skies, it stared back blankly and mournfully. All living things, who like you and I, survive on a steady supply of oxygen have been deprived of this vital life source by the likes of Shell exploration. This was about ten years ago- sufficient time to make a difference in the hideous living conditions, hopefully- because it is about to get worse. No thanks to Elon Musk, Russia, the new American kid on the block unleashed by Trump, the Shale oil and gas syndicate and the big elephant in the room, Nigeria.

That bright guy, Fareed Zakaria, has a thing for Nigeria. Left to him and his meritocracy mindedness, Nigeria should be on the cusp of colonising America. He, apparently, sleeps and dreams Nigeria but this time, the dream is a nightmare- if the following content is any guide.

“With oil prices crashing even before Covid-19 hit, countries like Libya, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela could see economic catastrophes resulting in “political turmoil, refugees, even revolutions, on a scale we have not seen for decades.”

I reject this prophecy in Jesus name! As with the case of coronavirus, how come our mighty men of faith failed to apprehend this impending calamity- rather than the delinquent preoccupation with 5G? Unlike these non performing evangelical giants and pending the fulfillment of my long coming pastoral ambition, I can prophesy that in the fullness of the oil apocalypse, it would be well nigh difficult for Nigeria to get a sympathetic shoulder on which to shed crocodile tears. As the cookie crumbles, I can well anticipate the stone hearted rhyme and rhythm of the beginning paragraphs of the post mortem analysis on Nigeria by the likes of the Financial Times, the London Economist, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Der Spiegel and others.

Potentially captioned ‘the chicken comes home to roost for fantastically corrupt Nigeria’- it will go somewhat like this. ‘Any unfounded optimism on the prospects of the oil rich and most populated African nation, Nigeria, as an emergent stable economy, has largely unravelled and come unstuck. Initially cast in the role of propelling sub sahara Africa into reckoning, Nigeria has paradoxically become a metaphor for the miserable existence in which the unfortunate continent is mired- barring a few bright spots like Ghana, Rwanda and Botswana. At par with Malaysia and Brazil on vital economic indicators half a century ago, the promise of the so called African giant has disappeared into the thin air of despair and destitution dragging the destiny of tens of millions of its citizens into a blindspot.

As the much maligned Bill Gates, (who has spent a fortune supporting Nigeria’s health sector) once rebuked-in the prospects of Nigeria, the fate of Africa hangs in the balance. The country is a mishmash comingle of the Alibaba type nouveau rich and the globally highest proportion of the dirt poor. Of the numerous false starts of the country, none has been beguiling and disappointing as the advent of the current President, Muhammadu Buhari.The hope (with his election as president) kindled by his reputation for fighting corruption has been wilfully extinguished. He came with the apt rhetoric that if Nigeria doesn’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.

On this score, he has turned out a cure worse than the disease. On top of all this is the virtual abdication of his responsibilities to a shadowy group of aides whom Nigerians call the cabal. This dereliction is to a degree attributable to his failing health which required extended hospitalisation for half a year in London a few years ago….and so forth.”

The leaders of the Niger Delta should extricate the region from this fate and never tire of making its plight globally newsworthy. Nostalgia becomes erstwhile and fading hero-militants in the tribe of Ken Saro Wiwa, Oronto Douglas, Jaja of Opobo, Tony Uranta, Ledum Mitte, Government Tompolo, Ateke Tom, Godini Darah, Ken Saro Wiwa junior, James Ibori, Faafa Princewill, Adaka Boro and all others of vintage memory. Those who believe, for whatever reasons, in the unity of Nigeria, owe a gratitude to the location of the crude oil largesee in the Niger Delta. Were any of the Wazobia triumvirate to be in their shoes, they would only minimally deal, if at all they bother, with the rest of Nigeria.This is the applicability of the balance of terror power politics of Nigeria that gathered apace since 1966. After making due allowance for his personal failings, if President Goodluck Jonathan, were to be Yoruba, Northern Muslim or Igbo, he would have served out his entitled two terms tenure. Contrarily, were Chief Moshood Abiola, to have originated from amongst the Nigerian minorities, barring the Muslim North, the Nigerian state would have gotten away with the annulment of the outcome of the 1993 presidential election.

I have not been a fan of Professor Itse Sagay since 2015 but I share his Niger Delta realpolitik chauvinism when he canvassed the following memorandum “This is a wake-up call on the people of the oil-bearing region. For instance, this is the time to come together and fight intellectually for the anomaly in the uneven allocation of oil blocks in the country. You will observe that because of the long stay of the north in power at the centre, they manipulated the process and cornered these blocks to the disadvantage of the south; today, you have all juicy oil blocks in the hands of the north. Now that Jonathan is there, I would not want to sound being immodest by calling for a revocation of the blocks allocated to the northern businessmen, but from the look of things, they have decided to take the entire south for a ride, so Jonathan should ensure that he corrects this imbalance by allocating more oil blocs to people in the south to make up for the inequity in the sector.”

In the penchant of Nigeria to transmute blessings into disappointment, the oil resource curse thesis has been an exemplar. It started, in earnest, with former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon’s infantile speculation that the problem of Nigeria is not money but how to spend it. And this self-fulfilling prophecy has only waxed stronger.This is why the idle cash thereby generated keeps finding sanctuary in the expansive folds of Ganduje-like babanrigas.

How would anyone who knows what to do with money account for the degradation of the state house clinic in Abuja to the status of the Agbonna Hill Medical Centre at Okemesi – after expending millions of dollars on the exotic ailment of the president and budgeted billions of naira down the drain? More than ever before, it is beyond obvious that Nigeria needs the equivalence of massive electromagnetic shock to slip out of its psychotic stupor.

It is what we called shock therapy and beyond a bloody revolutionary upheaval I see none outside of restructuring. It is the potential mechanism for the regeneration of the ethic and culture of positive correlation between productivity and and reward. It is a constant in the history of mankind that the development of any society is founded on the extent to which the two variables of hard work and reward are wedded in a direct proportional relationship. And since this is a rational concept, it follows that the ethic abides as the organising principle of rationally designed societies. Nigeria has chosen to be an exception to this rationality – with dire consequences.
Like Nero before him, President Buhari can continue picking his teeth while the treasury house burns-a revealing counterpoise to the impending economic collapse of Nigeria.