Northern states can survive without federal allocation – Shehu Sani
April 13, 2012 in Nigerian Current Affairs
Shehu Sani, a human rights activist, says the problem with the Northern region does not lie solely with the amount of money it receives from the Federation account. In this interview, Sani said governors of the region should look inwards for solutions to its problems. Excerpts
Do you think that increased allocation from the federation account would help to alleviate poverty in the North?
The clamour for increased federal allocation by Babangida Aliyu and his cohorts is aimed at ridiculing the North and an insult to the region they claim to represent. I agree that the federal revenue is lopsided in favour of the South-South. I also agree that the Northern part of the country is caught in the poverty trap, but I do not agree with the argument that the existing system of sharing money to state governors should be retained nor do I agree that if more money is given to North, the region will become paradise flowing with milk and honey. One thing I believe, and no one can dispute is that the Talakawa in Northern Nigeria do not benefit from the federal allocation. That is why whether militants in the Niger Delta shut down oil export or not, it does not affect the ordinary man on the streets of Katsina. He simply survives by toiling. That is also why if the prices of crude oil in the international market jumps to $300 per barrel or nose dive to $1 per barrel, it means nothing to the farmer in Bauchi or the artisan in Minna. Those who benefit from federal allocations are pro-government clerics, obsequies traditional rulers, ruling party dogs and a retinue of choristers, henchmen, hatchet men and all sorts of cronies whose survival depend on praise singing.
It’s ironic that the same Babangida Aliyu who drove away beggars from Niger a few years back is now deep in it, demanding for more money from the Federal Government in the name of tackling poverty in the region. Beggars always use the logic of poverty to justify their act. We must accept the fact that the key reason why an ordinary Northerner is insulted by a Nigerian from the South-South is because the North depends on federal allocation, and the federal allocation is nothing other than money realised from the sale of crude oil. We must accept the fact that the North is today seen as parasitic simply because its states depend on monthly handout from the Federal Government. If you are a leader in the north worth your salt and conscious of the dignity of your people, you would be thinking of how to free your people and region from the culture of dependency that has resulted to indolence and insolence. Why are the states in the South-east and South-west not complaining about derivation, distribution and the 13 per cent?
Without federal allocation, do you think that the Northern region can survive?
The way out for the North is to have a 10-year master plan for a life without oil money. When the Soviet Union broke up, Cuba realised it can no longer get free oil money, so it declared a 10-year “special period”. Within that period, it looked inwards. It was a tough period in the beginning, but with the foresight and honest dedication of its leadership and the sacrifices made by its people, today Cuba is on the match forward economically, US sanctions notwithstanding.
The master plan for the non-oil based economic development of the North should be a roadmap for its survival and prosperity. It must be agreed upon by all the Northern states, individually, they can’t achieve anything. The future of the region is in its collectiveness. The roadmap should specifically target the key areas of agriculture, solid minerals, commerce, human services, industry, sports, education and hospitality. A group of experts should be sent to China, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brazil, Turkey and Dubai to study their economic models.
An economic team for Northern Nigeria is indispensable at this moment. The team should have a subcommittee on agriculture, which should comprise academics, farmers’ representatives, businessmen and bankers, and should be based in the University of Agriculture, Markurdi. A subcommittee on commerce should be based in Bayero University, Kano that on solid minerals should be based in Nasarawa State University while a subcommittee on education should be based in ABU Zaria. All other key areas should also have sub committees based in relevant universities. The terms of reference of such committees should not be much. They should simply fashion out ways through which the states of the North can exploit its resources and generate revenue to address its problems. The choice of universities is simply to insulate the committees from politics and pin them down to doing a good job in an environment designed for such. The North should establish three standard universities of medicine to produce doctors we can “export” to the Middle East to be remitting money back home. We don’t need to build new universities, some of these states universities offering courses in philosophy and political sciences should be dismantled. We should also have two sports universities where world class athletes can be produced in all areas of sports and the universities should assist graduates secure contracts with clubs in Europe, the US and other places. They too are a source of income.
The future of the North lies in state capitalism. It is what brought China to where it is now and the key to achieving this is the NNDC. Northern states must recapitalise and restructure the NNDC. If that company is well organised and funded, Northern states will no not need federal allocations. The NNDC must open offices in China, Dubai and South Korea. Those offices should serve as business embassies of Northern Nigeria. They should sell the North the world over and bring world businesses to the region. The idea of governors travelling to launder money in the name of talking with investors should be discarded. Has anyone thought of the NNDC building hotels in Egypt, South Africa, Bangkok, New York or London? Has anyone thought of the NNDC getting into real estate in Dubai or Beirut? I know most of the company’s businesses in Nigeria are down, but that is due to lack of interest by the states. The North must return to that company for it’s survival and integrity.
The North seems to have a problem with the clamour for Sovereign National Conference (SNC), what do you think is responsible for that?
There are those who want SNC to make Nigeria better. There are those who want SNC in order to humiliate the North while there are those who want SNC just to break up Nigeria. Those on the first category are genuine patriots who wish the best for the country. Those in the second, are xenophobic, jingoists and ethnic irredentists while those in the third category are anarchists, nihilists and ultra nationalists. To be candid with you, Nigeria needs a revolution and not a Sovereign National Conference. Realistically, the philosophical basis of the SNC is about ethnic restructuring and creating autonomous states from an ethnic prism.
A Nigerian has been nominated to head the World Bank, what is your take on that?
About Okonjo Iweala, I may be labelled unpatriotic, but it doesn’t matter. I am a realist and do not think that Okonjo is patriotic enough to deserve my patriotism. When Obasanjo brought her to serve as his finance minister, she was paid in dollars, is that patriotism? Now under Jonathan, she was brought in to achieve his transformation agenda and suddenly she saw a vacant seat in the World Bank presidency, and she wants to jump in. Is that patriotism? If a patriot is given an option between serving his country and taking an international appointment, a patriot will take the former. I have listened to and read a lot of comments about Okonjo’s bid, but most of the comments are uninformed and thuggish. PDP endorsing, governors endorsing, ministers endorsing, the president endorsing; many of them think the way Bamanga Tukur was endorsed is the way Okonjo will get the appointment.
I have also read some comical and pedestrian comments by some who think that when Okonjo is there, some form of magic will happen to Nigeria. But those people are yet to tell us what magic happened when she served as MD for the same World Bank for five years. Many people do not even know that even if Okonjo becomes the World Bank president, the bank will not in any way give Nigeria preference over other nations of the world. Many think from a local perspective where a president or a governor will confer undue advantage and dispense patronage to his narrow ethnic group. Let’s even look at it from reality of world economics today. The World Bank and the IMF are increasingly becoming irrelevant in these changing times. The economies of the West are in woes, the World Bank and IMF are appearing helpless. They couldn’t help the West and they can’t help us, Okonjo or no Okonjo.
Africans continue to deceive themselves about international appointments and positions. When Kofi Anan became the UN Secretary General, Africa hoped. When El-baradei became the boss of the IAEA, Africa hoped. When Condoleeza Rice became the US Secretary of State, Africa hoped. When Obama became the US President, Africa hoped, etcetera. The earlier we start taking the economic road of China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea, the better for us. The world economic gravity has shifted from the West to the East. People like Okonjo represent the old order of Western financial imperialism.
Culled from Daily Trust