It is clearly in order to say that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has a well-defined method. Its defining characteristic is discrimination. The president puts the North ahead of the South in the scheme of things. He feels that one is more equal than the other. He also dispenses more favours to his Muslim brothers than to their Christian counterparts. He possibly feels that one is purer and, therefore, more deserving than the other. There is nothing inadvertent about the president’s choices here. He carries out his actions with reckless abandon. He does not care a hoot about the country’s delicate and precarious balance.
But the president’s discrimination against the larger Christian South pales into insignificance when you consider his wilful disdain for the South East. President Buhari will go down in Nigeria’s history, as one president that excluded an entire zone from the commanding heights of his administration without batting an eyelid. He has amazingly been doing this with benumbing indignation without consideration to whatever its outcome could be. The insensitivity is curiously amazing. Even the military, which was not accountable to anyone, did not come anywhere close to Buhari’s policy of wilful exclusion in the years of its incursion into politics.
In fact, we can safely say that the president’s dispensation of injustice to certain segments of the country has become legendary. This is worrisome enough. But it is much more so that the president has shown himself to be impervious to criticism. He has learned nothing and he is about to change nothing. What he appears bent on is how to deepen the woes of his victims.
Consider this, for instance. The president has just written the National Assembly, requesting it to approve a loan of approximately $30 billion for the government of the federation. We were told that the loan is for infrastructural development. We were also told that every zone, if not every state of the federation, would benefit from the infrastructure that the loan would be deployed to. The Debt Management Office took sometime off to explain this to Nigerians in the bid to justify the need for the loan. But no sooner were we assured of the overall benefit of the loan than the big exposure hit the headlines: The South East was not factored into the $30 billion loan. That is vintage Buhari. The South East is easily the whipping boy of his administration. And what is the president’s grouse? He said that the South East did not vote for him in the 2015 presidential election. That sounds atavistic in a modern world.
But it does appear that the president is beginning to look beyond the South East in his dispensation of injustice. He has also begun to beam some searchlight on the South South. He has apparently remembered as well that the South South, like the South East, did not vote for him. So, what is he doing about it? How is he responding to his rejection by the South South? The example that readily comes to mind here is his belligerent disposition to Niger Delta militants. When the president addressed the country during the 2016 Independence Day celebration, he had nothing but threat and harassment for the agitators. He said he would crush them if they did not desist from destroying the country’s oil and gas installations. The president is not interested in their grievances. He just wants to stop them in their tracks.
Regrettably, as South South leaders are making effort to get the president to see reason, he is extending the frontiers of his disdain for the people of the region. And if there is anything, which epitomises this, it is the distribution of capital projects to the various zones and states of the federation in the 2016 budget. As should be expected, the South East was at the lowest rung of the ladder. It was naturally followed by the South South, the next in line in the discrimination chain. Ordinarily, this would not have mattered since we are already accustomed to the president’s unfriendly disposition to the two zones.
But what really rankles is the position of Akwa Ibom State in all this. Of all the states of the federation, Akwa Ibom got the least budgetary allocation of N1.92 billion. This is in spite of the fact that the state is the highest producer of oil and gas among the oil-producing states and, therefore, the highest contributor to the country’s revenue. A further look at the budgetary allocations for capital projects shows that Kano State alone is put on the same pedestal with the entire South South. Whereas N32.14 billion was allocated to Kano, the six states of the South South got N35.36 billion. Again, Kano alone ranked higher than the five states of the South East, which cumulatively got N28.22 billion. That is the picture of discrimination before us.
But if everyone has decided to go to sleep over this brazen act of discrimination, the people of Akwa Ibom State have refused to come to terms with the oddity. They do not understand how a state, which occupies a preeminent position as the highest contributor to the country’s oil revenue, should be ranked lowest in revenue distribution for capital projects.
I share their concerns in this matter. There really cannot be any justification for this. But if there is anything it reminds us of, it is the injustice that rules and reigns in Nigeria. The Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the goose that lays the golden egg, has never been given its due. The region typifies the ugly face of neglect. It is because the presence of crude oil has brought pain and suffering to the people that we talk about the curse of oil. The exploration and exploitation of oil have become a source of agony to the people. Somehow, the people have put up with the ugly state of affairs for decades. But their expectation is that those who have made the neglect of the region a state policy should see the injustice in their actions and have a rethink. But what has happened to Akwa Ibom State now belies that expectation. The injustice beats the imagination. The people are asking why. They are more bemused by the fact that this is coming at a time the oil-producing states of Nigeria are groaning under the underpayment of the 13 per cent derivation, which they are entitled to by over 50 per cent.
The Akwa Ibom scenario illustrates a familiar story. It reminds us of the fact that Nigeria is founded on injustice. It demonstrates that equity and fair play have no place in our scheme of things. The military, which ruled by fiat, gave Nigeria the culture of impunity. The return of civil rule ought to reverse all this. Unfortunately, Buhari, who presides over the affairs of the country today, is a product of the old and decadent order. Whereas the civilised world is tending towards the liberalisation of the democratic space, our leadership in Nigeria is still weighed down by a gringo arrogance that sees one fellow as less important than the other. That is why someone decided to treat Akwa Ibom, as a vassal state, which should make do with the crumbs from the master’s table. But this is clearly unacceptable. No modern state can survive, let alone make progress in a state of master-servant relationship.