Thursday, June 27, 2013
Thursday, June 27, 2013
As usual, in each of his fallacies, John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria and currently the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York laid claim of being a friend of Nigeria as he strained himself to propound a one-sided, jaundiced and seemingly uninformed solution to the problem(s) of Nigeria, while foreclosing any alternative. First, Campbell should get it; he is not a friend of Nigeria, but a friend of his interests or the interests of those he represents.
In a telephone conversation with the Nigerian Guardian in Washington DC, which the newspaper reported in its June 24, 2013 edition, Campbell talked about the dangers facing Nigeria in 2015 on account of the socio-political situation in the North and advised that the “leaders at all levels in Nigeria should pre-occupy themselves with serious discussion on how to address the exclusion of the North from economic activities in the country”. Campbell talked about the alienation of the North. Anyone who reads the report critically will not fail to understand Campbell’s interest in the far North. He merely tagged along the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta problems to blur this interest.
Really, Campbell is not saying anything new. This is a rehash of his pre 2011 election comments, in which he claimed that Nigerians’ favoured candidate Ret. Maj. Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, a Northerner, was going to be rigged out by Goodluck Jonathan; in an election later acknowledged by even the US as the best ever held in Nigeria, and in which Buhari lost by about 10 million votes. The fact that certain expectations of the electorates have not been met by the winner does not obliterate Campbell’s bad call at the time. And it does not make the former tyrant, Buhari, a better alternative, not then, not now and not in future.
Where did Ambassador Campbell get this fiction that the far North has been alienated in Nigeria? Who alienated the core North from the scheme of things in Nigeria? Does Ambassador Campbell not know who dominated power in Nigeria for nearly four decades and used it to create more states, local government areas and carried out delineation exercises that gave them more electoral federal constituencies for their region? Just who? It’s the North! Does Campbell not know that Nigeria’s revenue accrual mainly from oil is shared between the federal, states and the local governments, and those regions that have more states and local governments receive more revenues than a region like the South East, which has the least number of states and local governments even when it has three oil producing states?
Does Campbell not know that the number of the people joining the military, the police, the customs, immigration, national security and defence corps, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) etc. is determined on the basis of regions/zones with more states having more of their people getting into these institutions? Does Campbell not know that Northerners are major players in the oil industry in Nigeria? In Nigeria, oil business is the ultimate economic activity that guarantees one unearned enormous cash and influence. Why have Northerners who were literally invited by their brothers in power to come and help themselves with prime oil blocks failed to use their enormous wealth to create economic opportunities for those around them? Does Campbell think that Southerners who are involved in “economic activities” were empowered by the government?
When Campbell talks about “the huge number of illiterates in the North who know only a few verses in the Quran,” who is he blaming for that sort of situation? Does he not know that there are all kinds of policy decisions, most of them made by Nigerian rulers of Northern extraction, which give the Northern youth advantages over their Southern counterparts, in gaining admission into federal educational institutions at post primary and tertiary institutions? What the Americans call affirmative action that just received a big knock from the US Supreme Court on June 24, 2013, is practiced here for core Northerners. And this is done in a very ridiculous manner.
Recently, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education released the cut-off marks for national common entrance examination for admission into the so-called unity secondary schools. Whereas students in the South East zone were required to score as high as 139 points in order to be admitted, students from the core Northern zones of North East and North West are to be admitted with scores as low as 12. Now, is it possible that a child who gets admitted into a school with a score of 12 will be able to compete with a child who gets admitted with a score of 139? How will the child with a score of 12 cope? Well, this is Nigeria! So, one way or the order, he/she will go through that level of education. And Nigerians still wonder about what went wrong with their educational system. That sort of advantage is also available to Northerners under various guises in admission to universities and other higher institutions and other federal establishments like the police force.
Dr. Campbell is a diplomat and scholar. He has immense access to resources, both human and financial. Therefore, he has the wherewithal to carry out a scientific study on any issue he so desires. I believe that the Nigerian Government will be willing to give him access to the data that he needs for such a study. So, I challenge Ambassador Campbell to conduct an unbiased scientific study on how much had been spent on developmental projects by the Federal Government of Nigeria in each region/zone and the budgetary allocation to each region/zone derived from an aggregation of what the states and local governments within each region/zone had received from the national purse over a given period. It is only when one has done this kind of study and drawn conclusions from it that one can talk intelligently and justifiably about exclusion of one section of Nigeria in economic activities. It is only when one has done this sort of study, generated the relevant data and analysed it that one can become a confident mouth piece of a section of Nigeria and claim the right to apportion blame on anyone for the differential development indices between Northern and Southern Nigeria. But why was this cry of exclusion not heard during the time the Northerners were in power?
Instructively, it is also reported that the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Professor Ade Adefuye, offered a counterpoise to Campbell’s alienation charge by revealing the extra mile the Federal Government is going to address the problem of the North. Professor Adefuye was reported to have spoken about a collaborative effort between Nigeria’s Embassy in the US and Corporate Council on Africa, that would translate into a summit on agriculture being held in the North, as well as another summit on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that would be held in the US in which Northerners and other Nigerians would be involved. The summit on agriculture is exclusively for the benefit of the North. Makes one wonder if the government of Nigeria and its agencies are now solely devoting all their efforts to the problems of the North? When will there be collaborative efforts to address graduate unemployment in Southern Nigeria, especially South East Nigeria that account for the highest number of unemployed graduates in Nigeria?
In my opinion, I believe that anyone who is serious about a workable solution to the Nigerian precarious situation should be looking at the country’s unjust structure that Nigerian rulers pass off as federalism and exploit to their advantage and those of their cronies. The truth is that Nigeria should not have been one country in the first place and indeed, should not be one country. Nigeria is one country today because it continues to serve the interest of its past and current rulers and their cronies and, of course, some external interests. In his book, Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink published in 2011, just before Nigeria’s general elections, Ambassador Campbell himself acknowledged that “Nigeria has stayed together for almost fifty years, despite a bloody civil war, because that is what the ogas wanted.” We all know that these “ogas on top” don’t care about the volume of blood of innocent Nigerians that has been used to sustain and continues to sustain this disparate amalgam. But must Nigeria continue to survive on the blood of its citizens?
For far too long, people have suggested the treatment of the symptoms instead of the disease. I think it’s about time those who claim that they are friends of Nigeria and claim to speak the truth about the Nigerian situation faced the truth and advised Nigerian rulers that the core issue of treating the disease can no longer be deferred. That deferment is dangerous.