Buhari And The Politics Of Oil

Ozodinukwe Okenwa

Ozodinukwe Okenwa

President Muhammadu Buhari has a storied career in the military and oil and gas industry. As a military ‘old-school’ General he had seen and fought wars (including the Nigeria/Biafra pogrom). He had treasonably supplanted a democratically-elected Federal Government. He had been Federal Commissioner, Minister and Head of the Petroleum Trust “Fraud” (PTF) during the kleptocracy of the late Gen. Sani Abacha. Presently, apart from occupying the hot seat of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Buhari equally serves as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

While there is no oil well in Buhari’s Katsina state the President is constantly in ‘love’ with oil for pecuniary reasons. To the best of our knowledge PMB does not have any oil block and had never asked for one but massive infrastructural development has reached Daura and other towns and cities in the north by the grace of the premium motor spirit pumped from the devastated lands of Niger Delta.

Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State, is there as his man friday fixing the dirty jobs while the lanky man from Daura dictates the tune. As a former corrupt Governor of Bayelsa State in the oil-rich Niger Delta region Timipre Sylva is indeed suitable for the job. He must have made a humongous amount of money corruptibly by assisting Buhari to fix the fixables in the stinkingly-corrupt oil and gas industry.

Of course the President is good at delegating duties. As the PTF boss he had delegated a lot of duty that when odious corruption was discovered in the Trust ‘Fraud’ (apology to the great journalist Ray Ekpu) Buhari had feigned ignorance of it all. Even now that his inept administration is claiming wildy of combatting graft corruption has soared to an uncontrollable level with a sitting Governor able to withdraw billions of Naira in cash as the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, recently revealed.

While the economy is being diversified to accommodate other avenues for revenues oil and gas remains the primary source of our external earnings. No nation wholly depends on one sole natural resource for its development or greatness. Cocoa and agriculture were once our greatest assets as a nation prior to the discovery of oil in Oloibiri.

Yet decades of ‘swimming’ inside the black gold had not transformed our miserable lives. Rather, oil has become a ‘curse’ to our nation! While hundreds of our compatriots (including those from the north who do not know how or where oil is found or refined) had made millions of Dollars through the ‘quota’ allocation of oil blocks!

Recently, Buhari was in Maiduguri on a state visit to terror-torn Borno State. He was there to commission some landmark projects completed by the performing Governor of the state, Prof. Babagana Zulum. If every Governor in Nigeria were to be like Zulum then dividends of democracy would not be a scarce commodity up north and down south.

As his presidential jet was touching down Boko Haram terrorists had launched a frightening rocket attacks that hit the airport neighbourhoods in the city killing some folks and destroying properties. The presidential visit, despite the scare-mongering by the armed and dangerous Jihadists, passed off well.

So Boko Haram still has the military capacity to attack? But the Buhari regime had claimed the terror group had been defeated technically and their firing power degraded? How come the Islamic outlaws were able to hit Maiduguri very close to where the President landed?

We all know that terrorism in the north would outlive the Buhari administration no matter what is said on the contrary. Yes, Boko Haram in particular and terrorism in general never started with Buhari as President but we hold that the underwhelming President cannot end the national security challenge.

Speaking to the invited guests and dignitaries during the Borno visit in the terrorised city of Maiduguri Buhari was elated that oil has been discovered in Bauchi and Gombe states. “Now oil has almost become irrelevant, but we thank God that oil is now discovered in Bauchi and Gombe and that will help to balance the politics of oil in the country” Buhari declared demonstrating his happiness at a ‘worthy’ news that would put Niger Delta’s perceived political power arising from its rich petroleum deposit into some rivalry mood.

He assured his audience that amidst the economic hardship, rising poverty, and public outcry for equity, the federal government he leads would make developing the new oil sites its priority!

President Buhari had signed the passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) 2021 into law. Unlike the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 that the National Assembly transmitted to him last November to sign which he withhed his assent from citing nebulous reasons he appended his presidential signature to the PIB Bill because the oil-producing Niger Delta region were shortchanged.

Opposition to the percentage awarded to the oil-producing communities in the bill had generated much furore. Southern Governors, legislators and oil-bearing host communities had kicked against the National Assembly’s decision to allocate a paltry three per-cent of oil revenues to the host communities.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had described the bill as a “shame to democracy, disregard for the will of the people, and insensitivity to the sufferings of the Niger Delta peoples”.

It was widely reported that during the ‘politics’ of negotiations for percentage the host communities had asked for ten percent while the federal lower legislative chamber went for five percent. In the end a paltry three percent ‘deal’ was reached, something considered generally insufficient an amount.

President Buhari had made it clear in his Maiduguri declaration that- the discovery of oil in Gombe and Bauchi states in northern Nigeria would balance the equation of the politics of oil in Nigeria. Yes, that is good enough. But we make haste to remind him that the politics of oil needs no comparison with the past or present or with one region and another.

If the politics of oil had been played equitably then the Niger Delta region would have become Dubai or Singapore of Africa. If it had been played fairly and justly the poor neglected indigenes would not have anything to do with misery and despondency.

Happy and prosperous New Year 2022 to every struggling Nigerian. Hope must be kept alive as we march inexorably towards 2023 when Buharism would become history. Happy new year, Nigeria!

 

SOC Okenwa

soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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