Restructuring, Nigeria 2019, Oil Politics And Need For New Concepts Of Power

By Akanimo Sampson

NIGERIA is entering her election year, 2019, deeply immersed in a multi-dimensional crisis. For some well-meaning citizens and pro-people organisations, restructuring the country’s twisted federalism holds the key to resolving the problematic national question. They may be right.

But, restructuring for restructuring sake may just be a mere palliative magic bullet. The killing spree of the herdsmen wing of the Boko Haram, tends to be raising more questions than the answers coming from the corridors of power. The pattern of repressing agitating ethnic groups and religious sects in Nigeria is still raising concerns around the world. The continued reduction of the peoples of the Niger Delta to a thing, and the despoiliation of their environment is calling for an entirely new concept of power politics as 2019 approaches.

For instance, regardless of the political parties and their presidential and National Assembly electoral candidates, the question the political sovereigns of the Niger Delta should seek answer to is, why should the oil-bearing states not be shareholders in the oil companies? But for a systemic oppression is there any specific constitutional provision that bars the oil-bearing states from being shareholders with the Federal Government and the oil corporations in the petroleum industry?

While marketing his programmes as the presidential candidate of the progressive-looking All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, a military general, cajoled the electorate into believing that in Nigeria under his watch as President it will not be business as usual. He vociferously promised the citizenry Change. But three years after earthquake electoral victory, President Buhari like Olusegun Obasanjo before him, is not open to to real change. Like Obasanjo, he is even denying the Niger Delta participation in the oil business.

From the way the militocratic leaders have been running their administrations since 1999, it is perhaps now obvious that there is nothing called ‘power sharing’ because the concept of power for those who know better, is misconceived. They argued that it is misconceived because the ingredients of power cannot be disaggregated and are not disaggregatable.

Arguably, the three elements of power in Nigeria since the abortion of military dictatorship are not the traditional three arms of government: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Based on what we saw during the Obasanjo administration with him as Petroleum Resources Minister, a tradition Buhari is keeping, the three arms of government are subordinate to the relationship between these three variables: Who Controls Oil, Who Controls the Armed Security Forces and Who Controls the Centre? Knowing these is critical to understanding of the post-military era new politics.

Arising from this seeming reality, political leaders of the oil-bearing states should press to elevate the ownership of oil to one of the three domains of power, just as the leadership of the Armed Forces and the leadership of the Presidency. For those who are debating the issue of who would be President in 2019 and after in the tradition of power sharing or shift, it appears there is need to change the debate by introducing new concepts into their discourse.

Major Oil Governors like Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, and Nyesom Wike of Rivers should at this point appreciate that the Politics of Oil is equally as volatile as the politics of the armed security forces and the politics of power sharing/shift. By now it shouls be obvious that there is nothing to share under Nigerian politics. Power analysts and politicians tend to unduly focus attention on the sharing of the power in the Presidency. Sadly, the constitution under the Presidential System does not provide a room for a shared power in the Executive. The constitution clearly says that ‘the Executive Power shall be vested in the President’. It makes no provision for sharing with any other bodies or organs in the Executive arm.

Consequently, the power shift of 1999 was a mere ‘settlement’ programme by some entrenched forces to appease a section of the country following their abortion of the outcome of the 1993 presidential election. Given the glaring democratic deficit in the oil-bearing region since 1999, it thus appears that recruiting electoral candidates by selection is incapable of bringing tangible dividend of democracy to the electorate. It is high time the impoverished oil and gas region began to learn from the North and the West..

The northern political leaders understand that power in Nigeria is indivisible and non-transferable just as those of the west clearly understand the potency of economic power. The North does not believe that power can be shared or shifted. As a result, they hold the view that the three frontiers of power are one and inseparable and indistinguishable entity. They also hold the view that since the three are linked, they want to control the three and not one or the other. It seems the Niger Delta is yet to appreciate this.

Former Inspector General of Police, Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta once said that the north would go to war to secure the unlimited control over oil. He made this public at the Abacha organised National Constitutional Conference. This, will perhaps, help to properly understand why the North has completely colonised  the oil sector under the Buhari administration.

To therefore, ignite wealth creation with the aim of making poverty history, there is need for a design that allows states and even local government into the ownership of many industries originally owned by the federal government. This is certainly not a novel demand. Contiguous states were made part of the shareholders in the motor assembly plants in Lagos and in Kaduna.

Electioneering politics is all about demands, horse-trading and compromises. To therefore, avert persistent separatist agitations, militancy, sectarian killings and the like, there is need to pin parties and their candidates to specific areas of demands by political blocs/constituencies. Power relations as it is in Nigeria today with social democracy of the Obasanjo and the Buhari varieties incubate quite disturbing disaggregate triggers. It could be much more better if electoral candidates assiduously seek to be servant-leaders.

The time to begin a new notion of politics in Nigeria is now. Away with the suffocating czarist politics and the fickle political followership. The APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and all the other plural parties should come up with their agenda for a post-oil Nigeria. Similarly, governors/gubernatorial aspirants of the 36 states of the federation should engage their people with their social and economic plans to break their dependency on the Centre. With mass poverty all over the land, local government councils have no business remaining a mere appendage of the state.