21st March, 2012
A witch proclaims her presence and an invalid does not make away; he must have money for sacrifices at home. (One needs not fear a scourge for which one has the remedy.)
During the week, I came across this beautiful essay by Thomas L. Friedman, ‘Pass The Books. Hold The Oil’. It is a recommended read. (http://www.burningpot.com/component/content/article/315-frontpage/1900-pass-the-books-hold-the-oil)
Friedman says “…Every so often someone asks me: ‘What’s your favourite country, other than your own?’ I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. ‘Taiwan? Why Taiwan?’ people ask.
“Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction— yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: ‘You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas… The real definition of goodluck I dare add.’”
In Nigeria, almost 40 years and still counting it has been either cocoa wealth, iron ore, or groundnut wealth, oil wealth and corrupt wealth derived through political office or access to leadership and the public till, not the peoples’ wealth. As I tore through Friedman’s argument, a cursory look at Nigerian news on derivation/revenue sharing in the last one week tells the whole story of a sinking nation.
The irrevocable fact remains that we are a land ravaged on the North by extremism, terrorism, and other …isms, bordered by her Southern neighbors with dwindling economic fortunes, plenty oil in one axis, a thieving leadership massaging their gluttonous lives with its proceeds. On all divides is a populace largely short-changed and poorly educated as to what the nation really stands for, while many say the agitation for a review of the revenue formula by northern elite is an opportunity for a review of the fiscal terms of the nation’s federalism. The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, says it is as a result of the increasing financial disparity between the north and the south.
The north argues that the Niger Delta states have lost their leverage on oil revenue, given the fact that 78% of the nation’s oil revenues were now obtained offshore.
The Southsouth sees it all as an opportunity to redress what they claim as the inadequacy of funds allocated to the oil rich region. Others say, the increasing disparity in economic fortunes is not just a matter of economic wisdom but a matter of political expediency.
However, what do the ordinary masses say or even know, than perpetual poverty irrespective of region, religion and creed.
The Northern governors’ clamour and Southsouth counterparts’ response is reflective of a desperate effort of a failed leadership which has so far steered the affairs of country aimlessly. Visit both regions and you will have daily conversations with an impoverished populace where the only thing on the up, is all sorts of economic misfortune, all waiting for ‘oyel’ money. The truth is, over a 110 million Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, Southern and Northern people are suffering as a result of the lack of focus of a few.
Governors of the states in the Southsouth geo-political zone describe the criticisms of the 13 per cent derivation funds due to the Niger Delta states by their northern colleagues as misplaced, saying it was wrong for the northern governors to go the extent of blaming the crisis in the North on the derivation funds.
But in double speak, they also want more. The governors insist that the Southsouth region needs an upward review of the derivation principle and the introduction of fiscal federalism because of the environmental degradation and pollution in the Niger Delta occasioned by oil exploration, which has adversely affected fishing and farming activities.
How many times have the masses been told this same lies by the governors from both South and North? If only these monies went into education, health, roads, infrastructure, human development. Sadly these funds find derivation in pockets of public thieves.
Whether S/South, S/West, East, North, is it far from the truth that many states in the country are indeed insolvent, showing signs of distress in their finances over the past few years because of some thirty something wayward administrators at state levels.
What is derivative when the quarterly allowance of members of the House of Representatives has hit the N27 million mark? It used to be N15 million per Representative. An 80% increase and an additional N38.88 billion per year. And many states cannot pay N18K, and while some less than 200 men and women live the good life, millions live in unseen palliatives.
Yet, as we engaged in all the noise and re-opening of old unhealed wounds— for the real thieves, it was another season of windfall as the tiers of government shared a total sum of N921 billion at the last meeting of the Federation Account Allocation committee (FAAC) for February.
We are left as commentators to bite our teeth, the real thieves are out there, sharing the money, from Swiss to Russian accounts, buying houses from New York to Dubai, golf course in far stretched out places like New Zealand. A politician pays for a property in the FCT for several millions in forex. A ‘representathief’, on the N27 million quarterly allowance insisted—“The quarterly allowance is a statutory benefit of members of the National Assembly because it is within our budget plans. It is not as if any lawmaker is stealing money.”
…“knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on how much it will print. Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs…” and in addition give derivation to a stealing elite”. However for Nigeria, our beloved it is not about derivation but accountability, social justice and reconciliation…We should face our fears, there is remedy. Time will tell if we want to…
•Dickson is editor, burningpot.com.