By Tunde Akande
President Muhammadu Buhari has never been seen publicly to laugh. Never since he shot himself to power as military head of state of Nigeria in 1983 has he been seen to laugh, and neither has he laughed since he became a democratically elected president of Nigeria in 2015. His sullen looks have made many Nigerians think he is a sadist. But he giggled recently at a public function when Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC’S presidential candidate in the elections for 2023, a man described as having a huge credential for getting anything he wants by any means, praised him. At a public function that looks like one of the events of Buhari’s flagging off the Kolomani oil find, Tinubu described Buhari as a “silent achiever.” As soon as those words dropped from Tinubu’s lips, Buhari who had been looking downward moved his gaze upward and giggled. Tinubu has been saying he would continue to do what Buhari did even when Nigerians who he expects to vote him in as their president think Buhari’s poor management of our diversity is a disaster that must not happen again in Nigeria.
But more than Tinubu’s flatteries, Buhari’s giggling came from another angle. For once, Buhari has been successful at promoting his Northern irredentism. When oil giants, Shell and Chevron refused to locate oil at the Kolomani field, Buhari ordered NNPC to mobilize all resources and prospect for oil in the field. For funds, he summoned NNDC, the New Nigeria Development Company to enlist. NNDC is the company set up by another Northern irredentist, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first and only premier of the Northern Region in Nigeria’s first republic. Ahmadu Bello’s avowed aim was to unite the North which he did great and deftly through Islamization and his plan to dip the Quran, the Muslims’ holy book in the ocean of the south of Nigeria. The North must never allow the south to rule over it, it must use the northern minority as a willing tool to achieve this objective.
For those who don’t know, Muhammadu Buhari is one of the beneficiaries of Ahmadu Bello’s northern hegemonic policy. He was part of the first secondary school pupils drafted into the Nigerian Army whether they were qualified or not. A report has it that when these set of draftees failed an exam and their teacher reported to Muhammadu Ribadu, the minister of defence, the minister ordered them to be passed. The British officer complied. Late Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, a son of Musa Yar’Adua, the Minister of Lagos Affairs, the second in command to Obasanjo’s military administration was a beneficiary of that northernisation policy of the military, his younger brother, Umaru Yar’Adua ruled Nigeria as a democratically elected president. Buhari has been the leader of Nigeria twice now, first as military head and now as a civilian head. How successful can a policy be?
But one major obstacle has stood between Ahmadu Bello and his objective. While the North controlled the military and has a vast territory and huge population which could win any election, the commercial muscle of the nation is in the south. Lord Lugard’s major reason for amalgamating Nigeria was that the resource of the south can take care of the resource-starved North. The sea is in the south, oil is in the south and the south had embraced education and made progress in it more that the North. The South especially the part of it that owned the oil has always held the North to ransom making threats to ground the economy of the nation. While the oil is in the South, the control lever of the oil wealth and the management of it is always in the North. Buhari made the northernisation of the oil management complete when most of his appointees to the top at NNPC are from the North.
What fueled Buhari’s determination is not his stubbornness or the desire to see Nigerian oil engineers succeed where the foreign oil giants failed, it was rather his determination to see the North take the upper hand in the administration of the nation. Buhari in his seven years so far as the leader of Nigeria has been more a Fulani than a Nigerian. So, when Tinubu flattered him and he giggled, he did so for the joy that he had seen the back of the South on the floor. When the World Bank chief paid him a courtesy visit some years ago, he advised him to concentrate its major projects in the North. That is his measure of seeming disdain for the South. But Buhari should be told in very clear terms that the mere fact of the discovery of oil in the North does not mean automatic development for the North. Just as the North’s monopoly of power at the centre and the control of the management of the oil resources and the sharing of it has not translated to the development of the North, neither would ownership of the oil well by the North translate to meaningful development for the North. The Niger Delta region where much of Nigeria’s oil is located is the least developed and the most devastated in the nation. Development is not just throwing money around like Buhari has done mostly in the North in his humanitarian service in the last seven years, development is about human mental development. Despite years of control of the lever of power in Nigeria and the largess that went to the North form that, the North is still the least developed in all indices of development. The reason for this is found in religion which promotes an appalling disdain for modern education.
Experience has shown that it is not the minerals under the soil that determines development but the resources in the head and heart of people. Africa ought to be the most developed region in the world because it warehouses almost all minerals in the world. But it is the least developed because it’s the least developed mentally. Africa’s resources are therefore looted because it has no technology to mine them. Nigeria’s oil has been hugely stolen in the last nine months for the same reason of lower human capacity development. Good enough, Buhari’s effort even though fueled by nepotism yielded some fruits. It is now known that Nigerian engineers can handle oil exploration without any foreign input. Sterling Oil, the company that performed the feat is fully Nigerian owned. Even the Indian managers there were trained by Nigeria’s local engineers. A Google search showed the Nigerian staff of the company once protested that their Indian bosses were trained by them but later made to head them. The reason why this was done is not far-fetched. Nigerian capitalists prefer to use Indians because they fear to put Nigerians in charge of their money because of the high-level corruption in the country. The Indians are also involved in the building of Dangote refinery owned by Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian business mogul, not because they were more technically qualified than Nigerian managers but because money is safe in the hand of the Indians.
Therefore, no joy should be expressed over the oil find at Kolomani until corruption is tamed in the nation. Unfortunately, this has not been done in the last seven years of Buhari’s poor handling of the menace. Rather, corruption has escalated even at the presidency. Nothing but a pervading death penalty will stop corruption in Nigeria. Again, complacency and fatalism must be dealt a fatal blow in the North. Allah doesn’t bring everything; Allah has given all men brains, and each will determine the outcome he wants. Sitting down in one place expecting that manna will fall from heaven is a prescription for failure. Education, especially technology and vocational of the highest quality must be free and compulsory in the North, otherwise, no good thing will come from the oil find. Agriculture which has been the bedrock of Nigeria’s economy must never be allowed again to suffer neglect. Oil is on its way out as a prized commodity, developed nations are concentrating on renewable energy and long after the oil has vanished, agriculture will continue to be a provider of food for Nigerians and an earner of foreign exchange if carefully organized. The land must be protected and preserved and not allowed to be degraded by oil spillage as it happens in the Niger Delta.
Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.