Prof Ango Abdullahi, spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and the former Special Adviser to President Obasanjo and ex-vice-chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, is very angry with the onshore-offshore dichotomy which he wants reversed as he claims it is unfair to the North which sustained Nigeria economically before the discovery of oil. The interview which was aired in Hausa Language on Voice of America re-writes history and it has confirmed speculations about a propaganda film which was meant for release just before the Second Republic President Shehu Shagari was ousted by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. It was a propaganda aimed at the north sustenance of the status Quo of northern domination of the nation’s political terrace as the headmaster, dotting the whipped-up reasons the North must continue to reap the reward of the North sustaining Nigeria before the oil regime came to be.
Below are excerpts of the interview he gave the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA):
Residents of the oil-rich states are complaining that oil exploration is destroying their environment. What is your take on this?
It is actually true that the drilling is destroying all these things, and that is why they are being allocated 13% of the budget. I am part of those who reluctantly agreed on the 13% in 1994 at the constitutional conference. The late Shehu Yar’Adua pleaded with us to agree on 13% because of the destruction on their farms, fishing places and homes.
Even before the 13% was decided, Rivers State or Bayelsa was getting N7billion every month and they only had like 1.5 million residents, while Kaduna State had like 6 million residents and was getting only N2billion per month. This is not fair.
Sir, if the onshore/offshore dichotomy was to be brought back, by how much percentage do you think the north can get an increase on?
I cannot really say for now, but I can say that we would be able get an increase of up to 25% out of 100% every month.
What you are saying is that the north is being cheated in the allocation?
That is right and you can also say that it is also our fault. If you want to be treated fairly, you should be fair and honest with yourself. During Obasanjo’s tenure, our representatives from the north — two speakers and quite a number of ministers in Obasanjo’s cabinet — presented him with the bill which he refused to approve but later on gave his assent because he wanted to get the oil-rich states’ support for his second term bid.
Are you insinuating that the north was to blame for their problems and not Obasanjo?
I personally do not blame Obasanjo on this issue, even though I don’t like his way of doing things and I don’t think he is a nice person. Even with that, I don’t blame him because he refused to approve the bill at first. Our northern leaders forced him into giving his assent to it. So he saw an opportunity and he used it. You can’t blame him for that. They didn’t care what the result of what they were doing would bring as they were only after their selfish interest.
Sir, how do you think the north will resolve its economic problem if the onshore/offshore doesn’t work out?
Even if the onshore/offshore works out, it is not going to be enough to solve the economic crisis of the north. Before this oil came into existence, the north had been successfully taking care of the economic activities of this country with farming. Farming has been in Nigeria before independence and 15 years later. If we had continued with that trade in the north, I believe we would not have cared if there was petroleum or not; it wouldn’t have bothered us one bit.
Written By Alaba Johnson