Talking Nigeria: Expert Expat Exponential Opinionating

By Stephen Lonewolf Makama
Mar. 13, 2012

Jean Herskovits, John Campbell... Jay Leno, Jay Z (okay probably not the latter two) but lately it seems almost everyone is profusely propounding theories and what punditical (if there be such a word in the lexicon) ideas on what they know to be wrong with Nigeria.

That, is the seeming problem – that everyone ‘seems’ to know what is the problem, with Nigeria, except seemingly the Nigerians themselves.

For as long as I can remember expatriate opinionating has been around and ‘nothing done change’ much since then and frankly if you ask my opinion I think most of the ‘expert opinion (ating) ‘is absolute hot air! (ignorance…).

Nigeria is going through a metamorphosis having evolved from a mere geographical expression to an organic one and the last thing it will need is the incendiary of unsolicited, unwarranted and lopsided commentary in the guise of expert analytical opinionating which only serves to water the oasises of division and mistrust planted by an unmindful amalgamation stoked in the past directly / indirectly by colonial policies which have been skillfully exploited in the past in the present and God forbid in the future!

John Hatch (“Tribalism”, Africa Emergent) echoes these words “…in Africa communal separatism can be directly attributed to the imperial politics of European powers, when the continent was divided between the British, German, French, Belgian, Italian and Portuguese following the Berlin conference…no account was taken of African communities. Some were divided between rival Europeans. Others were thrust within the same boundary, even though they had little in common and often had a history of conflict with each other …these frontiers and states they delineated were therefore artificial European units created by Imperial powers according to consideration of their own strength vis a vis each other. They bore no relation to the history, ethnic cohesion or traditions of the Africans living within them”.

Africans such as me may be said to be flogging a loooong dead of colonialism, now dead ,stinking and putrefying but consider these words purported to Lord Lugard : “The North and the South are like oil and water, they will never mix.” Yet still with the blessings of The King and Queen he went and amalgamated the various distinct, proud and self determinant ethnic nationalities – just like that!

Jean Herskovits and John Campbell clearly must have been speaking from a somewhat clouded vista on what they view or hold as opinions on the problems with Nigeria… Jean Herskovits is purportedly an ‘expert’ expat who has commentated on Nigerian issues since the 1970’s while John Campbell had a stint as ambassador to Nigeria and you know once an expat holds those glowing qualifications they become expert expats….

Herskovits begins her January 3, 2012 Sahara Reporters (a somewhat dubious online news outlet) article saying “…since the May inauguration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan , a Christian from the Niger Delta …., Boko Haram has been blamed for virtually every outbreak of violence …”

Herskovits surely must be speaking as an atheist… and strangely for an expat and an American, not even a former colonial British, she seems to know quite a lot about Boko Haram …

“Boko Haram…” she writes “… began in 2002 as a peaceful Islamic splinter group...” Splinter group of what? A more peaceful sect? Does she know the history of radical Islamic movements in the North? The notorious Maitasine whose leader Marwa came from Cameroon?

“Then politicians began exploiting it for electoral purposes. But it was not until 2009 that Boko Haram turned to violence, especially after its leader, a young Muslim cleric named Mohammed Yusuf, was killed while in police custody. Video footage of Mr. Yusuf’s interrogation soon went viral, but no one was tried and punished for the crime. Seeking revenge, Boko Haram targeted the police, the military and local politicians — all of them Muslims”.

Herskovits forgets that it was the late Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua, a Northener, a Muslim who was the number one man at the time, and I remember very vividly he was about to jet out of the country on some official engagement and he gave orders that the Boko Haram thing, which was more serious than portrayed in the media at then, be put down before he came back.

Herskovits continues:

“But the news media and American policy makers are chasing an elusive and ill-defined threat; there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today. Evidence suggests instead that, while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them”.

Granted she knows more than we do- did she also consult the United States government on the labeling of the PKK or Hamas or The Tamil Tigers as terrorist groups? Most probably she gave expert opinion to NATO on the Libyan opposition not being a terrorist group hence…

Herskovits argument seems more like an 'advisory' for the U S government not to become entangled in Nigeria – she seems allude to the fact that the current terror attacks by the Islamic sect Boko Haram are more of a reaction of the Northern part of Nigeria to an intransigent mainly Southern and Christian Federal government.

The ‘advisory’ nadirs “…The United States of America must not be drawn into a Nigerian “war on terror”- rhetorical or real – that would make us appear biased toward a Christian President…”

His Excellency John Campbell argues along the same trajectory citing the menace as a political problem as a result of …you guessed it! The same intransigence by Federal Government of Nigeria against the Northern part of the country…

He begins his op – ed (March 8, 2012 Huff Post World, Why Nigeria's North South Distinction Is Important) brilliantly: “Apologists for the Nigerian political system often accuse outside observers of viewing the country's North and South as monolithic blocks. With more than 150 million people, at least 250 different ethnic groups, and Christian and Muslim populations roughly equal in size, Nigeria's diversity is undeniable”.

Is Campbell telling us anything new? J. Isawa Eliagwu writes (‘Nigeria Yesterday and Today for Tomorrow- Essays In Governance and Society [Reconstruction and Reconciliation, The Nigerian Experience] : “ …at independence in 1960 the Nigerian political elite had not resolved two interrelated problems which were to hang over the political horizon. These were:

1. The fundamental imbalance in Nigeria’s political structure which fanned the embers of suspicion, fear and aggrieved ethnoregionalsim after independence.

2. The differential spread in the pattern of Western education.

Campbell continues…

“Nigeria's diversity is undeniable. Nevertheless, broad differences between North and South are a Nigerian historical, political and religious reality, and, as such, the distinction between the two provides a legitimate analytical lens…

The South is much richer and boasts far better socioeconomic indicators than the North. Extensive oil reserves are located in the Niger Delta, and the South has Lagos, the commercial and media capital of the country as well as one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

While there are numerous ethnic groups, the two largest, the Yoruba and the Ibo, make up the majority of the Diaspora that provides increasingly important foreign exchange remittances from abroad. It is true that Christians are a majority, but there is an important Muslim population in Yorubaland, and across the South, both religions are affiliative -- that is, an adherent chooses to join. Local conflict tends to be based on ethnic differences and competition for access to resources, especially in the oil-rich Delta, and very rarely do the clashes have a religious component. Given the history of inequality between the two regions, southerners often dismiss the North as backward”.

If the North was perceived to be backward or toward anything, it was because they allowed it . The colonial British wanted a pliable proletariat which would serve the purpose of their diabolical ‘divide and rule’ policy so they discouraged the influx of missionaries with their gospel of liberation and liberation theology.

J. Isawa Eliagwu further states …“ Following decolonization Nigeria adopted that format of government which clearly may not have been representative of or better reflective of the wishes and aspirations of the amalgamation called Nigeria… A Federal structure in which the Northern region accounted for 79% of total geographical area and 54% of population made groups from Southern regions feel seriously disadvantaged … in the context of Nigeria’ s ethno regionalism and democratic frame work of ne man one vote, the South saw the Northern tyranny of population as detrimental to their political interests …on the other hand , the north was disadvantaged educationally …the North was keenly aware of this handicap. It was therefore not surprising that the North adopted a Northernization policy of recruitment as a defensive mechanism against perceived Southern tyranny of skills…”

Campbell’s blind commentary continues…

“By contrast, the North's population is probably larger, but it is much poorer than the rest of the country, with some of the world's worst health and economic statistics. Its economy is in decline because of deindustrialization and lack of investment in agriculture and infrastructure, and a much smaller percentageof its population has access to education than in the South”.

Neglect? Declining economy? The North produced pyramids of peanuts! Literally- miles high actual pyramids of the leguminous plant! The North was an agricultural hub until oil was discovered – discovered on the South and delta not the North and desert! Why would the North abandon , I mean completely abandon the gold mine they had if they did not have strong if not total access to the new found black gold? The Niger Delta militancy was agitation against this singular incursion by the North into the largely Southern source of wealth , the resulting violence was directed very clearly against government , its structures and foreign ‘ collaborators’. Civilians, if ever, were usually caught in the cross fire but the issue was NEVER given an ethnic or religious coloration.

Peruse aspects of this online article published in the Nigerian Tribune: How North cornered Nigeria's oil blocs • Revealed: 80% of ownership of the nation's oil reserves is in the hands of some influential northerners • North, South-South in battle royale over oil(Written by Donald Ojogo, Regional Editor, South-South/South-East Friday, March 9, 2012)

“ …Nigerian Tribune's investigations showed that most of the oil and gas prospects had long been conceded to a particular section of the country…

According to documents exclusively obtained by the Nigerian Tribune, most of those to whom the nation's juicy oil reserves have been conceded are individually richer than some African oil-producers such as Ghana and Sudan.

The North has long feared domination by the more advanced South, and, hence, was unenthusiastic about independence. Distrust of the South remains widespread, and there is the long standing view that only through political power can the North catch up to, or even hold its own with, the South. Most -- not all -- of Nigeria's military dictators have been Northern Muslims, which continues to be a sore point among many southerners”.

Since then the Boko Haram that Herskovits seems to bent on deflecting attention from have come out openly to declare their war on Christians in Nigeria and their aim to Islamize the same…

I wonder what Herskovits will be writing about next. Apart from that every single day more revelations are unfolding of how sole individuals from North have had golden moments to transform the lives of the teeming masses of urchins and teenagers and have not : “For instance, Cavendish Petroleum, the operators of OML 110 - with good yielding OBE field was awarded to Alhaji Mai Deribe - the Borno patriarch, by General Sani Abacha on the 8th of July, 1996…At current production levels, the Mai Deribes net an average of N4billion monthly in crude oil sales (using oil price estimates of $100 p/b). Deribe, even in death is the richest man in the history of Borno state today.”

For anyone to even remotely allude to a Federal government disenfranchisement of the North is quite a process of a very ignorant mind – pure unadulterated ignorance.

“Another major partaker in the oil and gas sector is Mallam (Prince) Sanusi Lamido, a cousin of the Central Bank Governor, who is a key shareholder and director in Seplat/Platform Petroleum, operators of the Asuokpu/Umutu Marginal Field with a capacity of 300,000 barrels monthly and 30mmfcsd gas plant capable of feeding 100MT of LPG.

But the oldest of all northern-backed oil and gas concerns is South Atlantic Petroleum Limited (SAPETRO). South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) is a Nigerian Oil Exploration and Production Company that was established in 1995 by General T. Y. Danjuma, who is also the Chairman of ENI Nigeria Limited. General Sani Abacha awarded the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 246 to SAPETRO in February 1998…”( Nigerian Tribune, Friday, March 9, 2012)

For the North to retain any vestige of poverty or underdevelopment is a just a wickedness of the human psyche, it is pure evil , it is base – it as primordial as the age of the caveman who did not have all such at his disposal but he still fed , and took care f his responsibilities in ways which the greedy oligarchs of the North will never comprehend.

According to Higgins Jackson (An Introduction To African civilization) “The critics of Africa today, for example even among the Western world’s highest intellectuals, are referring to Africans as pagan, barbaric, savage. They know that the things happening in Africa today are none too strange from those which they conducted years back”. Wither the high horses now? The gilded speeches emanating from gilded halls?

Umar Ka’ oje, a Northerner summarizes the ignorance of our expert expats “In essence, therefore, the colonial power deliberately (for their selfish ends) engineered the structural imbalance in Nigeria’s Federal system when the Northern region had about 79.55 of the country’s land area. To worsen the situation further, Britain deliberately denied the North access to Western education in order to be able to manipulate the North and use it to checkmate the whole country through the indirect rule system…”

Jean Herskovits and John Campbell should at this point, in my opinion reapply and go back to college and restudy world history with particular reference to Nigeria!


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