The Editorial of The Nation newspaper of Friday March 14th, 2014 is another instant of deriding anything northern that has been the hallmark of our media industry dominated over time by those from the other parts of the country. The north has become used to such mindsets of seeing nothing good from this part of the country. Such thinking is what can be rightly said to be responsible for the stunted growth the country has been experiencing. This is exactly why Nigeria is perpetually a country of potentials. Sadly, such interventions by these regionalist writers are more often than not shallow, pedantic and lacking in scholarship. It is directed to a gullible audience and unfortunately they achieve their expected results.
Whoever wrote the Editorial failed to do justice to The Nation as an institution trying hard to project itself as a national media organisation. The vitriolic deportment of the Editorial against Dr. Bugaje’s revealed a mind made-up long ago to shoot down any idea initiated and pontificated by anyone from this side of the divide – because whoever listened to and chose to understand Dr. Bugaje’s position wouldn’t have written what was written as The Nation’s opinion that day. It exposed the haste in condemning the message and the messenger without actually grasping the import of the message. If the writer of the Editorial or the Editorial Board of the paper had cared to digest what was delivered, the context of the delivery and the circumstances that informed the delivery, then they wouldn’t have rushed to make fools of themselves and the tendencies they represent.
In the course of presenting his paper, Dr. Bugaje veered off his prepared text and spoke ex tempore on an issue that is of concern to northerners – the unending blackmail of the region by those who believe they are “oil producing states”. With facts and historical figures, Bugaje debunked the concept of “oil producing states” and also attempted to inform those who wished to be informed that the northern region is now turning its attention to human capital development in order to build a society based on ideas, innovation and creativity. That the north should wean itself from the shackles of oil is not in doubt. Be that as it may, he also laid bare the “false sense of entitlement” by those who believe that they are “oil producing states”. The exposure of their spurious claims might have been responsible for the angst displayed in the editorial. I fail to fathom why the discussion of oil always elicit abusive responses from who falsely believe they are the only ones entitled to it. They are entitled to anything and everything the country has to offer in all its nooks and crannies but oil is off limits to all.
Bugaje only tried to educate the uninformed that there are only oil producing countries and not oil producing states. Last time I checked, there is no Nigerian state that is a member of OPEC. This is what is unpalatable to “oil militants” and their godfathers. Another issue raised by Bugaje is the dwindling nature of oil as an asset and its negative effects on the environment in contrast to intellectual development.
I wonder how Dr. Usman Bugaje’s submission at the Kano Summit of Northern Elders could be termed ‘dangerous’ if mischief is not intended. A mindset that has been nurtured on a diet of laziness cannot in all honesty doesn’t possess the moral high ground to accuse one nurtured on hard work of tilling the soil of preventing the country from realising its potentials. I am baffled as to how a mindset that makes the dependency of rent-collection from oil explorers could accuse the one who has always survived by the fruits of his labour. What The Nation wants its readers to believe is that those who Bugaje represent should not be heard talking about the injustices in the country.
Well, The Nation should do well to educate us as to the labour and efforts put in by the inhabitants of the Niger Delta in burying the hydrocarbons lying beneath their feet that has formed the basis for the arrogance and insulting and condescending behaviour exhibited to the other component parts of Nigeria. Is it not funny at the dawn of Goodluck Jonathan’s Conference, the Editorial is talking about a “fraudulent sense of entitlement” that has “historically undermined robust economic activities across the country”. Funny in the sense that the hydrocarbon deposited by nature in almost all the West African sub-region, but which successive governments refuse to explore and exploit in other parts of the country, is what is engendering this “fraudulent sense of entitlement” on a people who don’t have a clue as to how the deposit find its way to their backyard. The Nation should have dedicated its Editorial to what Bugaje’s paper portends for a people who want to appropriate the hydrocarbon under their soil to the exclusion of other Nigerians, yet want to enjoy everything the Nigerian nation provides to them.
It is ironic that those advocating for a “true sense of entitlement” where hydrocarbons are concerned, will in the same breath pontificate on the enforcement of Section 43 of the Constitution (the right to acquire immovable property in any part of the country). If as the Editorial said Bugaje’s thesis is “antithetical to the fundamental principles of federalism”, then we are in serious trouble. What can be inferred from the Editorial is more “hogwash” and more “dangerous to the fundamental principles of federalism” than Bugaje’s submission. The removal of the onshore/offshore dichotomy by a legislature that was bought and stayed bought to pass the Bill in total disregard of a Supreme Court decision on the same issue is more dangerous to The Nation’s concept of fundamental principles of federalism. This Act effectively redefined who has international borders as known in all international laws and conventions. This is what is dangerous and this should be what The Nation should have had the conviction to editorialise on. This is a law that effectively implied that Nigeria doesn’t have borders along the Atlantic shores but its component states, (the units so graciously created by the country) do. This doesn’t appear dangerous to the Editors at The Nation, but a statement of fact by Dr. Bugaje is what constitutes danger.
What is clear to me from the editorial is that the mind that pens it only sees a united monolithic southern Nigeria but cannot accept the existence of its northern counterpart with intellectuals and scholars making informed submissions. If the intention of the Editorial is to bring the issue of a sense of entitlement, true or false, then by all means let it be on the table. We don’t have a quarrel with it. All we ask is that all issues should be on the table, to be discussed and agreed on.
The fact that the north constitutes 72% of the landmass of the country cannot be wished away but has to be accepted as a matter of fact. We have seen how first, Festus Odemegwu, the dismissed National Population Commission (NPC) Chairman, and then Tony Nyiam, a dismissed Colonel, have been trying their best to discredit the population of the north. They might have succeeded in convincing some of their naive listeners, but certainly this cannot change the facts of the matter. I see this Editorial in the same light – create doubt in the minds of the gullible as to the total landmass of the north – the maxim of “a lie repeatedly told will take the garb of truth”.
The country will do well for itself by investing more on human capital development than on an asset that is fast dwindling. The 21st century is a century driven by ideas, knowledge and innovation and not by “crude” oil. The success of Bill Gates and Carlos Slim attest to this. The discovery of shale oil should be concern to those flaunting oil as a high horse to be ridden and thumb oily noses at the rest of us.
Bugaje only sounded a cautionary note to the discerning and therefore deserved a round of applause and condemnation for him and his people.