Call no man good until he be dead” – A philosophical thought
John Donne derided death with his famous phrase, “…death be not proud.” John Donne was an English poet, preacher and a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the period. The man whose works are notable for their realistic and corporeal style was worried about our attitude to death, insisting that each time we fall asleep we have each died enough, for any sleep a moment past, one awakes in eternity.
Yet, one death that was truly proud for showing its sting to Nigeria was that of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The Mutawale Katsina was a good man. He was a perfect gentleman, who stood for a decent, just, progressive and egalitarian society and above all, he was a true leader for deeply connecting with the people.
Death plucked him when it mattered most and created a huge vacuum in the leadership and development process in the nation, which his successor President Jonathan Goodluck is now trying quite commendably to fill. As one put it, Yar’Adua was great in life and graceful in death.
Perhaps more painful is that his exit seems to be gravely affecting some of his patriotic and visionary legacies, mostly his noble plans for the Niger Delta. For decades, the Nigerian nation had grappled with the Niger Delta crisis. But in one deft move, Yar’Adua changed the nation’s dipping fortunes by returning peace to the Niger Delta via the Amnesty Programme, which stabilized the polity and moved the nation forward. Many see this as his greatest achievement, for at that time, following the growing impunity of MEND and Niger Delta militancy, up to 40% of the nation’s oil revenue had been wiped out.
What many remember is his Amnesty Programme but that was merely an achievement by default. His main achievement by design should be the report of the Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, otherwise known as the Ledum Mitee Report, fashioned out by a 45-man committee charged by the government with finding a permanent solution to the lingering Niger Delta crisis. The said committee extraordinarily had a free hand to operate and even chose its own chairman and secretary, Ledum Mitee, a human right activist, social crusader and the arrowhead of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)and Nkoyo Toyo, respectively.
President Goodluck Jonathan then Vice President, who inaugurated the committee on the 8th of September, 2008, promised that government would view seriously its recommendations and would equally do well to implement them. One then wonders why the report, an excellent and well thought-out document with historically informed recommendations, submitted to the government before the Justice Mohammed Uwais report on electoral reform, more than 2 years down the road, has not received open government endorsement by way of a Government White Paper.
Wonderful as they are, the Amnesty Programme and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs constitute only fractions of the core recommendations of the Ledum Mitee Committee report. Government has thus ignored its main recommendations to date and is finding some other shortcuts round the national troubles the report’s full implementation is meant to address.
Yet instructively, theses shortcuts, like all palliatives, are not working. They have proved to be mere stopgaps, which, at best, have only doused tensions. This same fate was what Mr. Mitee suspected would befall his report and enjoined the late President, Umaru Yar’Adua, while submitting it, that his government should not to conduct itself like its predecessors, but take the recommendations seriously as promised and implement them as the way of averting further crises in the region and by extension, in the country. President Yar’Adua promised to look into the prescriptions and implement them. His health soon after caved in and created its own crisis, which the county is only smarting from. His death notwithstanding, his successor, President Jonathan was part and parcel of that practice and is in fact spending the residue of Yar’Adua’s mandate.
At the 2010 Niger Delta colloquium put in place by the Edwin K. Clark Foundation and the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Delta State Directorate, and powered by the Office of the Governor of Delta State, scholars and leaders had to bemoan government inability to keep its promise. The discourse, though not intended to recite the content of the report, delved into how past government policies on the region were subverted by the leadership, thus failing to bring about the desired development of the region and avert the attendant insecurity and social dislocations that have only grossed underdevelopment for the land.
The report of the technical committee did well to review all previous reports on the Niger Delta, including the Willinks Reports (1958), Belgore (1992), Etiebet (1994), Vision 2020 (1996), United Nations (1997), Popoola (1998) Ogomudia (2001), Presidential Panel on National Security (2003), Niki Tobi (2005) and that of the Coastal States of the Niger Delta.
Expectedly, the Mitee committee held the same view as all the other reports and further showed agonizingly that no government had ever bothered to implement the recommendations with the overall goal of holistic, people-centred, people- focused and people-driven growth and development in the region.
The continuing disconnection between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta is till date, accentuated by the absence of requisite political, which has, without doubt, led to the neglect of the various reports on the Niger Delta. The violence in the region, which degenerated into an all comers’ affairs in kidnapping, started as a reaction to the neglect, insecurity, poverty, oppression and desperation of the region. This is not the type of national problem to fully resolve by an amnesty programme or continuing attention deficits.
The fact remains that the region has been criminally oppressed, exploited and neglected for over 50 years. It will therefore be tragic if President Jonathan fails to do something concrete by coming out with a White Paper on the Mitee Report and fully implementing it, not necessarily as a son of the region, but because the area accounts for about 80 per cent of the federal revenue and yet the least developed. Being a Nigerian president of Ijaw extraction is not just enough; such position is a means, not an end in itself.
For me, the main recommendation of the Miteee Report that has to be discussed forthrightly by the nation and agreed to is its prescribed 50% Fiscal Federalism – partial resource control with 25% as starting point and the balance met in 5 ensuing years. Its relevance attains from the fact that fiscal federalism is an irreducible minimum to any federal structure and where this is not so, such a federation basically remains one only in name.
The ongoing call for true federalism for the Nigerian nation started 50 years ago because Nigeria was intended to be a truly federal system and not an amalgam of centrifugal and centripetal forces, which it is today. Apart from the restoration of federalism that implementation of the Mitee report shall achieve, a veritable concomitant ought to be security. Insecurity in the Niger Delta has reverberated in the country in various forms, with its ugly imitation in the south east in form of kidnapping, in south west as unbridled activism and violence and in the north, in the resurgence of Boko haram.
Indeed, there is growing insecurity in the country and groups are arming themselves to the teeth. There is now irrefutable evidence that militants are rearming in the creeks of Niger Delta. Many more groups are doing the same for private reasons. The great arm cache containing heavy weapons as rocket launchers and bombs found by the security forces days ago at Lagos ports in 15 containers is a very dangerous signal that should
not the taken lightly. It is true Israel says the cache was for Gaza Strip, but it was not the first and will not be last.
So, it is just the time to revisit the Mitee report, as a way of returning the nation to the path of federalism, security, growth and development, since the growing insecurity and underdevelopment is diagnosably symptomatic of their growing lack.
Law Mefor, Author and Journalist, is Director, Center for Leadership, Social and Forensic Research, Abuja; [email protected]. 234)0(80-787-2893.