Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown reacts to Prof. Dagogo Fubara’s interview on power rotation between Rivers State Upland and Riverine people… and other issues.

Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown reacts to Prof. Dagogo Fubara’s interview on power rotation between Rivers State Upland and Riverine people… and other issues.

RE-POWER ROTATION BETWEEN THE UPLAND AND RIVERS IJAW WILL ENSURE JUSTICE, PEACE AND HARMONY By Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown. The interview

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RE-POWER ROTATION BETWEEN THE UPLAND AND RIVERS IJAW WILL ENSURE JUSTICE, PEACE AND HARMONY

By Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown.

The interview by Alabo Prof Dagogo M.J.  Fubara on power rotation published in Rivers IJAW VOICE online is very interesting. There is a lot to learn from Alabo Prof.  Fubara’s views and we also have small things to disagree with him.

First, the areas of agreement with his views. Yes, we must commend Alabo Prof. Fubara for his robust intellectual activism on governance issues at community, Local Government, State, Regional and Federal levels. He is always a mover we are proud of.  We can learn from his insight into social infrastructural issues in Rivers State from his activist role and closeness to government since 1979  ( e.g. his role in setting up of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology,  flood control measures in Rivers etc.).

Alabo Prof Dagogo Fubara

But we can also see flaws in the logic and intellectual basis of some of his arguments as I will show later. The interview demonstrates that Alabo Prof Dagogo Fubara is a true Iroko among social intellectuals. He is not taking refuge by burying himself in his profession. No sir. He engages on issues of interest to many and takes his stand in the public square. Also he is not afraid of criticism. He actually shows that he takes advantage of such criticisms to improve his initial position for the good of society. An example is his initial stand on “political restructuring” as the key solution to Nigeria’s economic and political challenges which seems to have shifted positively. It is the stand which he has canvassed openly on the Ijo Professionals’ Forum and the Ijo Traditional Rulers Committee along with PANDEF (both organizations of which he is a leading voice).

I respectfully challenged that initial position at the Ijo Professionals platform, arguing that it is a sugar-coated temptation that is “a historical” (i.e. against historical evidence) and standing on a very weak logic. I felt humbled that from his international acclaim, as one of the leading voices of Niger Delta Region, Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara acknowledged that my ‘local’ contribution is an authentic critique (of their perspective) which he said needed to be studied for its merit.

HRH Alabo Prof. Dagogo M. J. Fubara

What is the substance of the issue we debated?  The position of many Niger Delta groups and leaders, including Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara seems to support the orchestrated clamour by the political elite for “restructuring” of the political system and restoring derivation as major revenue allocation formula. Many Nigerians have been led to believe the false contention that once a Federal system shares revenue on derivation principle (i.e. closer to 100% derivation), the better it is for the federating states because that is “true Federalism”. This is a false claim. There is also the claim that with restructuring into regional system of government in Nigeria as was the case before 1966, Nigeria would know peace. It is not logically true.

My critique is that Nigeria’s social crisis is not the product of a federal or unitary system, but of economic backwardness and structural underdevelopment anchored on rapacious greed and historical blindness of our political leaders. Just look at this: states were created in 1967 under direct control from the center. That was a “unitary government” in all political respects. Yet Gov. Alfred Diete-Spiff ran the first government of Rivers State with the Founding Fathers of the state such as late Chief Dappa Biriye, Pikibo Daniel Kalio, Chief Kombo Igbeta, Chief S.A.J. Wachukwu, Chief Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas, Chief Wenike Briggs, Ken Saro Wiwa, Chief Kobani, Dr Obi Wali etc. They were true stakeholders with a purpose to build a great state, as pioneers in the agitation for State creation.

Five years after the civil war, Diete-Spiff’s administration made Rivers State one of the top 3 of the then Nigeria’s 12 states, along with former Bendel and Lagos States. Why was restructuring not the issue then? It is because the Governor did not have a monopoly over control of government money and decisions. Secondly, the Founding Fathers in the administration made sure that government invested state resources in industries and enabling infrastructures located in different parts of the state. Jobs were everywhere. We built the biggest and best assets in Nigeria in terms of human capital and infrastructures. There was no insecurity of lives and property in Rivers State.

Lt. CDR. A. P. Diette-Spiff

If since 1999 we are now worse off, we cannot blame it on the Federal System and point to restructuring as the solution to the MAIN problem. It is illogical. Rather we must find the courage to tell our political leaders (i.e. PDP, APC etc.) that we don’t want a political system that puts control of our money and appointments in the hands of one man called the Governor.

Now let me point to the following that I disagree with in Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara’s interview:

a) I concede to Alabo Prof. Fubara his inalienable right to his story of origin, like any other Opobo person. But the narrative is wrong in my view to seek a justification based on linkage of his chieftaincy stool to Bonny Kingship. Status in Bonny or anywhere else is not a justification of the second class title Gov Amaechi imposed on Opobo Traditional Institution for reasons we can only guess.

Former Gov. Rotimi Amaechi

 

Heritage and status in Bonny were not the basis of selection of the Houses that came to establish Opobo Kingdom. So how do you align a 16th century family tree in Bonny to the selective carving of new Chieftaincy titles and stools in 21st century Opobo? It could not have been the basis of Governor Amaechi’s decision. Otherwise those selected and favoured would not have been the rightful recipients of Governor Amaechi’s generosity. It is a credit to the political sophistication of Opobo people that our kingdom remains united and at peace, unlike other places where Gov Amaechi shared out Chieftaincy titles as if they were a photocopy of Warrant Chiefs under a colonial government.

I believe the records and evident conventions that the Founding Fathers of Opubo-ama (Opobo Kingdom), established the kingdom as a joint enterprise in which a sort of “Federal System” operated. The 14 Sections led by the Founding Fathers who made Chief Jack Annie Pepple our King Jaja, treated each other with a sense of mutual respect and equality. King Jaja himself treated the chieftaincy of Opobo as a respectable and dignified institution where equality was a paramount principle. There is no evidence that he or any succeeding Amanyanabo treated any Chief or House as subservient to the king. Of course a recent story in Egberi Opubo was the clear handiwork of ill-advised attack dogs unleashed at Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara. The publication failed in its purpose because it curiously insulted our  King Jaja and Opobo ancestors.

King Jaja of Opobo

The claim that some Opobo Founding Fathers and their Houses were slaves of King Jaja only shows the emptiness of the “writers committee” covered like an ‘Owu-Ogbo’ masquerade. They went on ‘ijumangi’ but it ended up as a parade of their nakedness when all they achieved was to publish a piece of rubbish that soiled other arguments they made. The piece made a false claim because it implied that King Jaja sat with slaves in Opobo Chieftaincy Council. No, the great King Jaja of Opobo did not. It is against Ibani tradition to imagine that slaves will appoint a King or that a King would sit in council with slaves!

b) Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara’s insight into governance and infrastructural issues needs to be put in historical context. He did not seem to have done so in his interview. It could be misread as a suggestion that only projects in the Ijo parts of Rivers state were addressed under Governor Okilo. Let it be noted that great infrastructural investments were made by Diete – Spiff in Port Harcourt such as Hotel Presidential and Olympia Hotel, the State Secretariat Complex and the Civic Center, two major hospitals in Port Harcourt Town with the Niger Hospital in Diobu. Countless mileage of new roads was built. etc.

Former Gov. Melford Obene Okilo

Also rehabilitation of secondary schools along with new School of Nursing, Teacher Training Colleges, the College of Education and College of Science and Technology. Most of them if not all, were located in the upland areas between1970-74.  The riverine areas did not seem to get a fair share.  Though the projects were not all concentrated in Port Harcourt, public concern was growing in Rivers State by 1974 about how to balance upland and riverine assets / opportunities, to ensure equity. Ijo leaders appeared to have concentrated more on social engineering to achieve unity in the state, without seeking to entrench equity as a principle of governance. That was a major flaw of the time. Sadly enough it continues to this day.

As a defensive strategy ahead of Gowon’s expected programme of transition to party politics, the upland side of Rivers State fired the first shot on the issue of equity. They demanded for creation of Port Harcourt State, because the political class felt the upland area was a minority and could not in a democratic process where ethnicity was a factor, expect to produce a Governor! From 2003 Odili’s administration addressed the issue by sweeping it under the carpet and was unfortunately ambushed by the emergence of “MILITIA DEMOCRACY” (i.e. one in which bullets count, and not ballots).

Former Gov. Peter Odili

Governor Amaechi appeared interested to address the issue by making it a public domain debate under APC. But let us be clear. Governorship position alone is not what we mean by political and economic equity. How governorship is rotated among component ethnic or clan units of the state is very important, but to make it the center of the debate tends to endorse the current position where the Governor since 1979 has too much powers. Indeed across Nigeria the office has become a primitive political monarchy, with citizens of each state as mere subjects of the “throne” or even pure slaves!

Gov. Wike

How do we create equity in asset building and opportunity sharing at unit, ward, LGA, Senatorial and State levels? That is the question all Rivers people should address seriously. Governor Wike’s government needs to be encouraged by our vocal but decent debate, to formalize the discussion and agree on a decision about zoning formula at all levels.  Demanding an Ijo state is not an answer, in my view. It is rather escapist.

c) What purpose should political power serve our people and State? Alabo Prof. Fubara did not address this. We need to evolve a clear road map and clear goals of what each administration should do from Year One to Four. This is only possible if we are clear about what kind of society we want to build. Alfred Diete-Spiff’s administration wanted Rivers State to be in the top tier out of the then 12 states. It was achieved judging by all the human indicators. And it was done within 3 years from 1972-75 (June), with less fund than half of what a governor gets each year since 1979. We can do so again.

How do we police the state apparatus to achieve set targets? Here is an example of the enormity of the challenge. If you read the document Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara quoted, we can see that even though targets were set for the Rivers State University of Science and Technology at the time of its inception, the core goals to position it as a global development institution were not met. RSUST did not address industrialization and environmental challenges of the state in any way we can see.

d) The bogey of restructuring has failed to address the genuine issues of monopoly of economic and political power by Governors. This has robbed every Nigerian of dignity, freedom, equity and access to opportunity to be productive and to be the best we can be. Our politics is heading in the wrong direction because it is far from the measures of true democracy in terms of quality of life of citizens, freedom, dignity, participation in decision making and commitment to using resources in a transparent manner to address the good of the greater number. This democracy favours less than 10,000 people in each state among those in the bedroom of power in each administration. Millions are allotted to die! We should address this monster of monopoly of state resources by a few. Let us stop trying to photocopy its footprint.

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