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Oil in The North: What Hope For Better Nigeria? (1)


The news of crude oil discovery in Kolmani River, Bauchi and Gombe States and the subsequent commissioning of oilfield drilling operations by President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to generate interest among Nigerians across divides. When, in 2019, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) announced its search for and discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the Northeast region, many dismissed it with a wave of the hand, because, according to them, availability of oil in the Northern region is nearly impossible, considering the topography and nature of the zone.

Of course, such an argument didn’t come from geologists with expert knowledge of shale formations, but Nigerians who are fed up not only with the government’s inconsistencies; years and years of failed promises and what was seen as Buhari’s pro-north agenda. The latter subsists, even when evidence shows that indeed, the government was right about what they saw in the Northeast.

Personally, I had my doubts those days too, though not on availability of oil, but on the possibility of oil in commercial quantities. With my little knowledge of geography in SS1 I am convinced that if a search is conducted in any part of the 36 states in Nigeria, oil would be found, but, the question would be, what quantity? Nevertheless, having followed activities of the NNPC over this period, my doubts and suspicions have since transformed into excitement for the country. But, not so with many Nigerians who still believe that the whole episode is suspect. There may be so many reasons for this. For instance, if indeed, oil has been discovered in the North, why the speed with which the Buhari led administration is laying pipelines from the Niger-Delta up north to the Nigerien corridors? Wouldn’t it have been better to save the resources or better still, use it to lay pipelines from Bauchi/Gombe oilfields to other parts of the North and to Niger Republic, since it’s closer?

To me, the argument in favour of the oil pipelines remained germane, until this recent discovery. Except the government comes up with a superior argument, I have now begun to consider it as a monumental waste of Nigeria’s scarce resources at a time the country borrows to finance recurrent expenditures.

I don’t really agree with all the things citizens say about the government, especially, as it pertains to this Kolmani oil experiment. But, as I read comments on it, one question kept popping up. This Kolmani oil! I mean this our oil in the North-East, will it be treated like our gold in Zamfara and other parts of the North? Or will it be handled like the oil in the Niger-Delta region? Anyone that has answers to that question should help me. I’m very sure that such a question cannot arise in a transparent society, because the citizens already understand how things work.

By the way, one thing that seemed like a consensus among Nigerians, is that the discovery of oil in the North is God’s way of responding to the prayers of Nigerians for restructuring. In my little mind, I have also questioned what is to be restructured – Nigeria or the oil sector? And why should availability or otherwise of oil in the North become so significant in determining whether Nigeria succeeds or not?

I am too young to understand certain things and I’m yet to obtain answers to the questions. It’s safer therefore, to conclude like one TV presenter recently, that “if a witch cries at night, a child dies in the morning, it can be concluded that the witch is responsible”. Well, I’m not good at interpreting proverbs, so let me leave ‘the witch story’ for now’. I am even a Christian.

Let us keep pretending about it, but the fact which remains unchallenged is that, in spite of the unity in diversity mantra, the regions coexist in mutual suspicion and distrust of each other. The quota system is a brain child of that distrust, the lack of faith in the quota system by the present administration has also further fueled the divide.

If not for this Buhari’s government, Nigerians believed that federal character had good character. Fortunately for us, Nigeria is unlike other countries where policies and procedures are taken seriously, otherwise, the staff of the Federal Character Commission would have been transferred to other ministries where they can become useful to us, since the office is no longer relevant in determining anything in Nigeria.

No matter what we think, Nigerians must realise that if a government is populated by a particular tribe or religion or cabal; it’s not the leader’s tribe that failed, it’s the team he assembled. This particularly, is one problem that has continued to tear the country apart. Many people, for instance, believe that Igbos planned Nigeria’s first military coup, because, majority of the participants were Igbos. We also believed that the counter coup about six months later, was planned by the North.

The Gideon Orkar Coup was a Middle-Belt Coup, the alleged coup plot by Gen. Oladipo Diya, Adisa and others is a Yoruba Coup. That means that all the regions have at one time planned and executed a coup d’ tat against the Nigerian State, since all these coups, including the one by Col. Dimka (I may be wrong) were planned majorly by soldiers from the same tribe. Something that sounds like rotational presidency, sorry…I meant rotational coup plotting!

I’m sorry for touching this sensitive issue and I must apologise. But this is exactly how we have continued to profile each region and ethnic group for the actions taken by a few persons. I have mentioned these ones because they are treasonable offences tantamount to imprisonment or even death. Hence, accusing an entire group of people, is almost like condemning them along with the culprits. Is this not exactly what we have done to Buhari, making his tribe culpable for every mistake he made in office – because, majority of his appointees are from the North. Did that also not affect our attitude to the search for oil by this administration? Wonderful.

*** Written by Ifeanyi Ebenezer Onyike a senior lecturer at the Dominican
University, Ibadan

Courtesy: Prime Business Africa where it was first published.