At Alamieyeseigha’s lecture, Niger Deltans demand true federalism
True federalism and resource control were the major issues on the front burner at the public lecture organized yesterday in honour of the late former governor of Bayelsa state, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, with major speakers calling for a return to them.
The various stakeholders who spoke at the lecture preceding the interment of the former ‘Governor General of the Ijaw nation’ insisted that if Nigeria must make progress, it must return to true federalism as it was practiced before now.
The speakers, including former Minister of Science and technology, Prof Turner Isoun, former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government under Alamieyeseigha, Prof. Steve Azaiki, Prof. Godwin Darah as well as Governor Seriake Dickson all agreed on the need for restructuring the Nigerian nation to achieve true federalism and resource control.
Darah, the keynote speaker, posited that Nigeria was not put together by God as wrongly believed, but was a violent creation of the British for the purpose of commerce and business for profit purposes.
He likened the Niger Delta struggle to those of Apartheid in South Africa, the Cuban revolution and the Algerian revolution, noting that the Niger Delta issue was even more strategic to the rest of the world.
The professor of Literature in English, contented that Nigeria with over 511 languages is not suited for a centrally-run system of government. He requested Nigeria to learn from America, a land he said has prospered for its unique adherence to federal principles and sees the states as co-ordinates.
Darah said: “What I have done to the lecture is to show how Nigeria came into being and I have proven that Nigeria was not put together by God, it was not a divine architecture. Nigeria was assembled by the British people for the purpose of commerce, to make profit, to take away raw materials and bring manufactured goods from their country to sell to us. It was a business transaction.
“From the records, I have shown that that business of assembling Nigeria was carried out and executed through violence and bloodshed, it was not peaceful. I go back even to the 19th century and I could recall the struggles of King Jaja of Opobo, the Nembe struggle of 1895 to Ovanrawen Nogbaisi, 1897, Nana of Itsekiri, 1894, Madam Tinubu of Lagos and Egba land. Wherever you went, the British used guns and weapons of destruction to fight to take over the land.
‘’There are 511 languages in Nigeria; Adamawa alone has 80, Kaduna has 53. The middle Belt is what is referred to in Nigeria as the Tower of Babel. You cannot govern such diverse people with this kind of central government,’’ he argued.
He blamed the military for the damages done to federalism through series of coup and counter coup, adding that the Petroleum Decree 51 by General Yakubu Gowon was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and led to what the region is suffering today.
“We were very unfortunate that we have series of regimes that did not build on that federal structure that we had, but it was circumstances. A coup in 1966, then a civil war and then General Gowon created the 12 states as part of the pressure for federalism, but they took economic decisions that aborted federalism and the first decision they took was Petroleum Decree No 51.
“That any money that comes with oil and gas from that date will go to the Federal Government of Nigeria. That’s the thing that is giving the yoke to all of us. They keep changing it in various ways, if you go to the 1979 Constitution, it is there, if you go to the one of Babaginda in 1989, the clause is there, Abacha 1994, it is there and it is now in section 44 sub section 3 of the 1999 Constitution.”
Darah described the late Alamieyeseigha as the Moses of the Niger Delta and noted that ‘’ one cannot have a family of 36 where only a few out of them keep preparing the food for everybody.’’
Prof Isoun, who chaired the occasion, said that no section of the country should be afraid when the issue of federalism is mentioned, noting that the system can benefit everybody if practiced in its true sense.
‘This lecture puts Alamieyeseigha’s death in an intellectual context. We are not doing anybody a favour when we ask for federalism; it is strategic to the interest of Nigeria.
‘’When you talk about federalism, some people say you are against a part of the country. Federalism will solve some complex problems in this country. A central command system will not work.
‘’ We are having these complex problems because we have refused to practice federalism. Our problems will keep getting longer than the fuel queues if we don’t go back to federalism,’’ he argued.
He added that Alamieyeseigha was a true believer in a federal system, noting that “when he (Alamieyeseigha) talked about resource control he wasn’t just talking about the Ijaw people but the survival of Nigeria.’’