KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future

Open Letter to Northern Governors

 

MAX GBANITE

maxgbanite@yahoo.com

 

 Monday, June 9, 2008

 

Commenting on the four hundred (N400) billion naira Excess Crude Bonanza, disbursed by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, to be shared amongst all the states governors of the federation, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, the publisher of Leadership newspaper, on his ‘Last Word’ column of May 19th 2008, wrote;

 

“A few days ago, the Yar’Adua government disbursed a staggering N400 billion to state governors as their own share of the excess crude proceeds. The governors should be well advised not to consider the unexpected fund as booty but rather an opportunity. Since they were not expecting it, shouldn’t the people ask them and even hold them responsible for the use and misuse of the funds?”

 

He continued;

 

“I have suggestions though: Northern state governors should invest their share in independent power projects (IPPs) and agriculture especially the propagation of jatropha, the energy plant. The Western states should use theirs to renew their cocoa plantations, which have become obsolescent, as our cocoa farmers can no longer compete internationally in the export market, and also in IPP; Lagos State could put a large chunk in its mega city project. The South-East should put a lot of the money also in IPP, which could reawaken the well-known enterprise of the Igbo people. And the South-South? With the kind of stupendous amount we are talking about, if they cannot turn their domains into a mini-Dubai, that’s their business. But the governors should know that Nigeria has changed. The people are going to ask them how they used this particular largesse.”

 

Thank you Sam for these words of wisdom.

 

Your Excellencies of 18 Northern States and a Chief Servant of 1 State (Niger State) think about Sam’s suggestions and while at it, let me expand on the words ‘reawaken the well-known enterprise of the Igbo people’. You see, at the end of the civil war (1966-1970) which most of you were too young to know or understand the cause, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as the then Commissioner for Finance (called Minister today) and civilian Vice President, sold a wicked and devastating policy to His Excellency, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, GCFR, the then Head of State and his government. Chief Awolowo’s policy recommended that any Igbo indigene that had money in his/her Nigerian bank account before the war should be given twenty pounds at the end of that war to start life and rehabilitate his/her family. He further carried out the indigenization policy that denied Ndiigbo and even the north the opportunity to purchase shares in any of the foreign owned companies being privatized at the time.

 

After this shocker, the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, Diette-Spiff, and under the supervision of the current Senate President David Mark (then Major David Mark) of 3rd marine commandos division, with Col. Olusegun Obasanjo as General Officer Commanding (GOC), spearheaded what became known as the ‘abandoned property’ saga.   

 

 These articulated policies were designed to emasculate and devastate the Igbo’s and to further diminish their sense of pride and dignity. But, they held on to their belief in ‘God the Creator’ and  ‘offor Igbo’, and their probable kinship to the Jewish heritage; hence the journey of reawakening started…. and eventually, they survived to guide the economy of Nigeria back to health; if in doubt ask Dr. Okonjo Iweala and Prof. Charles Soludo. Today there are more individually owned industries in the East than any other part of Nigeria. Their State Capitals look more enterprising than any in the North and the West; they shall eventually overcome and produce a capable President for Nigeria, if they can focus and repudiate the stupid idea called Mossob.

 

You see…. the late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe said that, “change is constant.” And Sam, in his correct advisement posited that ‘Nigeria has changed’. The big question that deserves a truthful answer is…are you prepared to follow the winds of change?

 

Today most of you are quick to celebrate posthumously the lives of late founding fathers like Sir Ahmadu Bello-Sarduanan Sokoto; Sir Tafawa Balewa; Mallam Aminu Kano; and of recent Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Aro Mopa, with relishment, but without following their footsteps of integrity, sincerity, or even understanding what their focused-sense-of-direction for the north and the country was all about. Please contact Alhaji Shettima Ali Muguno, CFR, and Alhaji Maitama Sule, CFR…they are still alive and have a lot to tell you young ones.

 

The Inconvenient truth:

Your predecessors failed to formulate articulated policies for the region; whilst some went on false propagation of Sharia laws to blindfold their unsuspecting citizens from recognizing when their allocated funds went missing; some went on siphoning funds out of the country; and others went ahead to support and even fund the illegal ‘third term’ agenda and when they were later taken to court to answer for raping their state they broke down and cried like a baby and, now they are canvassing for an illegal extension for a President that is yet to complete his term; however, a few delivered and did well for their states.

 

Today, some of the failed former governors awash with stolen money, managed to find their way into the Senate; and a year later, none have even articulated or presented a bill that makes sense to uplift the masses in the north or the country.

 

There was once a Vice President who enjoyed a cool four-years relationship with his boss while amassing stupendous wealth, but failed to bring federal presence or development to the north or even his immediate constituency in Adamawa, except his own private university for the children of the elites; and when he realized that his ambition to be a President was next to naught, he cried foul and used the same north to save his neck…his legacy today is that he fought against ‘third term’ and won eleven court cases against his boss…hurray!

 

What about the current chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission, who stood by and allowed former President Obasanjo, to use Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, to deny New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC) the right to a GSM license to roll out Gamji-tel; they were instead given a universal basic license with a 2.2 spectrum which is more expensive to deploy than a 450 spectrum. The same chairman is lavishing in wealth as part owner of Chinese Civil Engineering & Construction Company (CCECC); same company built the headquarters of NCC and part of the games village for COJA games in 2002, in Abuja…what a shame!

 

And what about a former two-time Finance Minister and PDP Board of trustees member who served Obasanjo; whose beautiful wife later became a minister of Women Affairs in the same Obasanjo’s government; he did not even do anything for his constituency and people of Fika, in Yobe State or the northern region that gave him the platform to be all that he has become today in Nigeria; and recently came out to criticize Obasanjo and Atiku and the same government he was part of and benefited from. Well, the English people call it hypocrisy or even an act of cowardice, for lack of a better word.

 

These so-called party stalwarts could not even get former President Obasanjo to resuscitate the decaying textiles industries by infusing the seventy billion naira promised by his government or bring up the status of Kainji, Shiroro, Jebba dams, or the one in Plateau State. Yet, when elections came, they played on the intelligence of the indigenes of the north. Well, enough is enough!

 

Today, the citizens of Kano metropolis depend on God to provide them water; they have not had pipe borne water since the days of the late Gov. Audu Bako. Over 300 industries have gone under, and without employment for the youth, Kano has placed itself on harms way and that is why it has become a flash point for religious bigotry, intolerance for freedom of expression, and would some day implode to its face; this is unacceptable.

 

Many children living in Bauchi and Gombe are suffering from yellow teeth and yellow eyes decease because they drink water drawn from wells and boreholes; imagine what future holds for these innocent children. And this is because these States have uranium reserves under the soil. So, instead of digging wells or boreholes, the States should embark on water schemes from the surrounding rivers within their respective states.

 

The North has more local governments than other parts of the federation; the local governments receive their federal allocations like every other in the country; yet, the north has a monopoly when it comes to street beggars (almajiri); monopoly of uneducated children; monopoly of underdevelopment; monopoly of redundant millionaires who prefer to leave their monies outside the country rather than invest in industries that will create jobs for their people and helping the national economy like their counterparts in the Eastern and Western part of the country; Other parts of the country feels that the north has taken so much from the national cake and yet, in terms of  building human and infrastructural development has little to show for it. Why is that? 

 

The way forward:

The Almighty God gives power, and HE alone chooses whom to give it to. You may have been picked by your predecessor to take over from him, however, if it was not God’s will, he would have failed; at least we know of Bauchi State, Sokoto State, and Jigawa State examples.

 

Your loyalty now is with God, and the people of your state. You must think of what your vision, mission and legacy should be. The era of just paying salaries, pensions as when due, and buying motorcycles for the indigenes, as democratic dividends is no longer enough. More must be done to increase capacity building in both infrastructures and human intelligence.

 

If you recall, sometime in March 2008, Leadership Newspapers organized a conference titled ‘De-industrialization of the North’, at the same conference, the respected General T.Y. Danjuma, lamented that his generation failed the North; and he was very correct.

 

The Past is gone and is irrecoverable, but the future is filled with optimism and hope for the teeming University graduates from the north coming out of schools and looking for work.

 

Former President Obasanjo’s policy of divesting state government from owning shares in banks was clearly targeted at the region. But, he could not kill the entrepreneurial spirit of New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC-formerly Northern Nigerian Development Company).

 

This sixty-year company, which started under the late Sarduanan Sokoto-Sir Ahmadu Bello, is today, and still remains the answer to the re-industrialization of the north. And as stakeholders in the company, you as state governors can guarantee the survival of the north by re-capitalizing the company.

 

The company, with your unequivocal support, has the opportunity to buyout the federal government stakes in all the textiles industries in Kaduna and Kano, and re-engineer the factories to work profitably, while creating jobs; it has the tenacity to develop the abundant mineral resources and build attendant industries to support them in the north; it has the expertise to roll out Gamji-Tel telecommunication system that can rival MTN, GLOBACOM, STARCOMS, and VISAFONE; it can build fertilizer plants and Independent Power Projects (IPP) to support mechanized farming-agro-allied industries, and Cluster Industries derived from the natural resources in the north; it can build refineries supported with pipelines from oil and gas from its oil blocks located in Benue troughs, and Chad basins, rendering Niger-Delta militants impotent; it is indeed poised to become the trajectory of development for the new north, and a better Nigeria.

 

But for NNDC to transform the north into a new Dubai, the nineteen (19) States of the north who are stakeholders must fund it urgently. The funds can come from the excess crude funds received from the federal government. Please think about this for a moment.

 

NNDC remains your best option to collectively do something tangible for your people with lasting legacies. You cannot go it alone in your respective states. Take a moment and observe what your counterparts in the west have done with Odua Investment Company (formerly Western Nigerian Development Corporation); they infuse capital in the company at any chance, just to remain a dominant force. Odua Investments has successful operations in housing, hotels, telecomm, banking, and is currently working on the acquisition of rail lines, all for the maximum benefit of their indigenes.

 

As for the East, they systematically opted for individual investments and allowed the ingenuity of late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. M. I. Okpara, who established Eastern Nigerian Development Corporation (ENDC), a company that once owned Nigercem, Niger Gas, Niger Steel, Obudu ranch, Cashew Industries at Oghe, Enugu State and Okigwe, Abia State, amongst many of its investments, to die a natural and unheralded death.

 

If you fail to act now and take advantage of this excess-crude-oil-windfall-fund, you will live to regret it for the rest of your lives after you leave office. The Universities in the North are churning out graduates every year. The federal character system will soon be revoked, allowing only those with merit the opportunity to work in federal allotted jobs.

 

The question remains…is the north ready?

 

So what happens to those from your region who could not get into the federal system because you failed to actuate policies that prepared them for the future; they quickly become political thugs, and menace to your region and the larger society. Simply put, you will not have peace to enjoy your ill-gotten wealth; you and your descendants become targets for terrorist actions.     

 

However, if you take the bull by the horn and tackle the challenges presented to you today, and allow that Igbo spirit mentioned earlier by Sam Nda-Isaiah to reawaken and overwhelm you, then collectively you would have proven that that same spirit is universal and not the exclusive character of Ndiigbo. Moreover, it is the same spirit you showed when you were insisting on ‘POWER SHIFT.’ Your positive collective actions would create newness in the north, and guarantee a safer and more progressive Nigeria.

 

Please the time is here and now; God has given you the opportunity to be better than your predecessors. Be courageous enough to make a difference and be part of the new generation northerner’s that made a bold difference in the lives of the people, invigorate the industries, give hope to your people, and emulated the wisdom of Sir, Ahmadu Bello; the strength of Sir Tafawa Balewa; the courage of General Murtala Muhammed; and finally, the tenacity of Aminu Kano.

 

“The truth is bitter when swallowed, but when fully digested is nourishing to the body and mind”.

 

 

Assalam Alaikum!

 

Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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