Igbo-Niger Delta versus Arewa-Yoruba on Fuel Subsidy: On Whose Interest?

Militants in Nigeria
At a period Nigerians from different ethnic groups and religious backgrounds were united in a nationwide protest against fuel subsidy removal and corrupt practices in the oil sector some ethnic groups and regional leaders were beating the drums for sectarian battle against other sections of Nigeria.

These jingoists seemed to have enormous resources as they spent millions of Naira in syndicated but sponsored statements in the press which are provocative with wicked insinuations that could rupture the nation’s delicate north-south (Muslim-Christian) dichotomy.

Even after the recent unfortunate bomb attacks in Kano, specifically targeted at securities agencies where many indigenes and Muslims were killed, one Hon. Chief Tobias Michael Idika, claiming to be President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Kano State Chapter, issued an inciting statement urging “Governors of the Eastern States and Igbo speaking States in the South-South to provide means of transportation with adequate security to evacuate our brethren” from kano. The same man had claimed that: “Islamic group serving the interest of some Islamic Clerics, Northern traditional rulers and ruthless politicians, have a big plan to bomb Churches, public places, hotels and selected private homes within Sabon Gari Kano.” The unfortunte allegations are blatant lies.

An investigation by the Economic Confidential revealed that while some of the syndicated advertorials in the heat of fuel subsidy removal had fictitious names others bore the names of recognized groups and individuals. The tone of the publications convey a message which tends to establish that some sorts of alliances are being promoted by the groups and individuals to pitch Igbo (South-East) and Niger Delta (South-South) against Yoruba (South-West) and Arewa (North).

The Economic Confidential, in this report produces excerpts from some of the campaigns by the groups and individuals here.

South-South Elders
After an emergency meeting of a group called ‘South-South Elders and leaders’ in Abuja on January 9, 2012, and led by Edwin Clark, the leaders issued a statement saying that they “reviewed the security threat posed by the activities of certain groups from parts of the country, with the active connivance of their leadership who have taken refuge in cold complicity in the face of exacerbated killings in the north.” They also stated that they “note with dismay that section of the country have leveraged the opportunity of the current policy of the federal government on the removal of fuel subsidy to call for a regime change. This has not come to us as a surprise because it is public knowledge that some group of politicians had long promised to make Nigeria ungovernable under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.”

The group claimed they “have it on good authority plans by some prominent individuals in the country to wreak havoc and inflict unimaginable destruction of both institutions and leadership of the country. These subterranean moves to destroy the fabric of unity of this country at a time the leadership of the country is entrusted to our son is treacherous, callous, divisive, ill connived and against the spirit of our collective union as a country.” The communique which was signed by 28 elders included Atabo Tonye Graham Douglas (Rivers), Admiral  F.B.I Porbeni (Bayelsa), Air Cdre Idongesit  Nkanga (Akwa Ibom), Sen. Lee Maeba (Rivers), Olorogun Sen. Felix Ibru (Delta) and Brig. Gen . Idada Ikponwen (Edo) among others.

At another meeting of the group on January 10, 2012, they issued another communique published in several newspapers where they insinuated that past administrations of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man (South-West), General Ibrahim Babangida (North-Central), Chief Earnest Shonekan (South-West) and Sani Abacha (North-West)  experienced “varying degrees of percentage increase amounting to a cumulative 3,233% under IBB and 536% under Obasanjo administration, the current increase (of Jonathan from South-South) that will definitely usher in an era of no more subsidy is 112%”. They also listed names of those they alleged were beneficiaries of fuel subsidy fund who “have preponderance of names from other sections of the country to the exclusion of the South-South (Niger Delta).” The names are mostly of those from South-West and the Northern states.

Leaders of South-South (Niger Delta) and South-East (Igbo)
On January 12, 2012, Chief Clark led another Joint-Meeting of Elders and Leaders of South-South (Niger Delta) and South-East (Igbo) where they issued a statement claiming that the faceless Boko haram group were “enjoying the tacit encouragement of some political leaders of the north is reminiscent of the ugly pogrom of 1966 which set the country on the path of conflagration that consumed innumerable innocent Nigerian citizens.”

They further added that “to facilitate and ease killings of southerners who seek to escape to their home states, the murderers aided by their leaders have laid siege on all known access and routes out of the northern parts of the country… That the current protest against the removal of fuel subsidy is a smokescreen to perfect the ploy to make the country ungovernable for Mr. President. This has been a promise made publicly, by some politicians who lost out during the last presidential election.”

The leaders restated their allegations against past South-West and Northern leaders, especially administrations of Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo for unprecedented cumulative pump price increase during their tenures and accused “political detractors” of “attempt to serve their grand design to destabilize the country.”

In conclusion, after commending security agencies, they  unequivocally warned that “any attempt at undemocratic change in the country will be fully resisted. Any such perpetrators shall have no country to preside over.”

Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC)
Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) with signatories that included Asari Dokubo, Miabiye kuromiema and Elder T.K Ogoriba has called for “Resource Control and Not Subsidy.” In their Open Letter to “Fellow Nigerians,” they stated that “strike and street protests that were initially cleverly masked as labour-led protests against the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (fuel) is nothing but an orchestrated plot by certain ethnic groups, the same ethnic groups and nationalities  that have ruled Nigeria for more than 40 of the 51 years of its existence as a independent country, the same ethnic groups that have for decades been siphoning  the oil wealth of the nationalities of the Niger delta, to disgrace  Mr. President, a son of the Niger Delta, out of power…  The Street protests we can now confirm, are being inspired, heavily funded and directed by the political leaders of these ethnic groups and their cohorts among independent oil marketers. The plot is to make Nigeria ungovernable for President Goodluck  Jonathan; portray him as clueless, weak, incompetent and unable to hold Nigeria together.”

They also insisted that they “shall no longer allow any drop of our oil extracted from Ijaw land or in the Niger Delta. We are now determined to have our oil refined only in the Niger Delta so as to create jobs for our people. We hereby declare the Kaduna refineries an illegal refinery and shall take steps to ensure that crude from Niger Delta do not get to that refinery ever again. Similarly, all transmission lines feeding the said refinery shall be severed shortly.”

Other Igbo Groups
Similar groups that toe the hardline postures included Alliance for Igbo Youths (AIY) led by Johnbosco Muozoba who recalled the cause of Nigeria Civil war, saying they dissociated themselves from the protest against removal of subsidy saying “it is in the best interest of the country.”

Then came a group going by a name ‘South-East Pro-Fuel Subsidy Coalition’ from Enugu, led by Dr. Okechukwu Onuoha and Ndubuisi Ugba pointing out that “Unassailable evidence points to the fact that, the economic saboteurs who have now been unmasked, particularly those who used supply tankers of water and collect subsidy from federal government are the cabal funding the NLC/TUC STREET protests”

Ethnic Nationalities on Resources
A group going by the name ‘South-South Ethnic Nationalities’ insinuated that they were “aware that the current crisis rocking the nation is a calculated attempt at painting President Goodluck Ebele Azikwe Jonathan’s  incompetence as a basis to bring in the military to take over power from this democratically elected government. We urge the military not to pander to the whims and caprices of political desperadoes.” The signatories were from Isoko, Ijaw, Itshekiri and Urhobo.

Another association going by the name ‘Niger Delta Occupy Niger Delta Resources,’ issued a communique in Port-Harcourt where they stated that “Niger Delta and all the resources found in the Niger Delta belong to Niger Delta people. All resources found in any other region of Nigeria belong to the people of such region.” They therefore “call on all Niger delta peoples, for the sake of our future, to look to our nearest neighbors, the Igbos, for immediate   and strong alliance to enable the Niger Delta nations and the Igbo nation to face the obvious change that will come to Nigeria, in the strength, justice, brotherhood, and truth…. if Jonathan, a Niger Delta son is not good enough to govern Nigeria, the oil in his Niger Delta is not good enough for Nigeria.”

Another group, South-South Progressive Union in collaboration with Oil and Gas Communities Vanguard issued a paid Press Statement insinuating that “while those in the North and South West enjoy subsidized (PMS) premium motor spirit; the resource owners in the South-South and South East pay through our skin for a product that is our exclusive divine/natural endowment… The NLC and the TUC do not have an exclusive say on oil matters .We are all stakeholders. Therefore, the civil society, NLC and TUC are on the extreme because the issue boarders on corruption.”

In conclusion they said that “Information has it that the crisis rocking the nation is calculated attempt to paint President Goodluck Jonathan. It is hereby made abundantly clear to sound this warning that we are ready to use the last drop of our blood to defend the Jonathan presidency. Therefore, the military should not pander to the whims and caprices of these political desperadoes.”

REACTIONS
Oodua People’s Congress (OPC)
Reacting to some of the insinuations, the National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) Gani Adams, condemned elders of the Niger Delta for claiming that Lagos alone consumes about 65% of the country’s total fuel stock and described the statement as unfortunate and misleading. According to Adams, “it was unfortunate that an elder like Chief Clark, who I hold in very high esteem, would make such statement.”

While urging elders in Niger Delta to realize the importance of Lagos as the commercial capital of Nigeria, Ganiyu Adams wondered why an elder like Chief Clark would rise in support of a very unpopular policy like the subsidy removal. “It is really funny that a man like Chief Clark would be behaving in this manner. I am aware that Chief Clark has about five buildings in Lagos, only one in his home state and one in Abuja. Why would such a person now turn around to bite the finger that fed him…? So if he says Lagos alone enjoys more than 65% of fuel, he should know that his people are part of those who benefit from it.” Adams warned that the Chief Clark should not provoke the Yoruba, saying statements like the one attributed to Chief Clark and his group could provoke the people of the South West. “He should not provoke the Yoruba. He should not cause trouble in Nigeria.”

Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF)
Also in their reactions, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) issued a communique in Kaduna where its Chairman Aliko Mohammed and Secretary General Anthony Sani drew the “attention of Nigerian leaders be they political or religious to beware of making unguarded statements claiming knowledge of supporters of evil doers without naming them when such statements should have no place in delicate situations such as we have in our country today” They therefore “commended Nigerians of both faiths who are already working together to narrow the differences among themselves and are creating interreligious harmony such as noticed in Niger, Kano and Kaduna states and the FCT, where Muslims and Christians took turns to protect one another while observing their religious rites.”

Kano Muslim Youths
In Kano, Muslims youths under aegis of concerned citizens, paid visitations to executive members of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kano state chapter and some Churches to assure Christians of their safety that no harm would come to them. The leaders of the group, Alhaji Bashir Is’haq told Christians and non-indigenes that “we are here to deliver a message of hope, peace, and solidarity. Muslims are not source of threat, but a source of security; they don’t wish you any harm but peace and wellbeing. In them, you have a dependable ally.’’ The leaders charged Nigerians of different faiths and cultural backgrounds to unite with Muslims to fight common enemies such as corruption, bad government, dishonesty, crime, insecurity, greed and injustice.

Leaders of Hisbah a local security outfit, some called them Sharia police were assigned to lead their team to protect places of worship in Sabon-Gari, a predominantly Christian area, where over one million non-indigenes, especially Igbos reside. Ibrahim Musa, one of the leaders said “Kano people have risen up against Boko Haram and we voluntarily assisted the security agencies in apprehending some suspects recently. We must protect our brothers and sisters who reside in our community against faceless terrorist groups and selfish political leaders.”

Lagos Muslims
The National Missioner, Ansarul Ud deen Society of Nigeria, Sheik AbdulRahman Ahmad, at the rally against subsidy removal in Lagos said: “There is no problem whatsoever between Muslim and Christian communities in Nigeria. Those who want us to go to war will be disappointed forever because we will not fight. Also Boko Haram is not only irreligious; it is an instrument of oppressors to perpetrate evil against the downtrodden people. There is no connection between Islam and Boko Haram. Boko Haram is killing both Christians and Muslims in the North; it is just that our media are grossly under reporting killings of the Muslims, especially Islamic clerics murdered by this same Boko Haram. We are united here as Nigeria in protesting against poverty, corruption and lack of transparency in the removal of fuel subsidy.”

Igbo Unionist
A unionist from Imo state, Abraham Ifeanyi lambasted those using ethnicity and religion to intimidate other sections of the country. He said “I don’t see any reason why some groups of people would sit somewhere and claim they represent ethnic groups in dishing out reckless and frivolous statements. Those that are attacking Tunde Bakare and Nasir El-rufai in the media for rising against Jonathan’s removal of fuel subsidy, have they forgotten that the same Bakare and El-Rufai under Save Nigeria Group relentlessly campaigned for emergence of Goodluck
Jonathan as Acting President when President Yar’Adua was sick in Saudia Arabia? Nigerians of today are wiser and can be fools to fight one another for selfish interest of politicians masquerading as religious and ethnic leaders”

Many Questions
The Economic Confidential is yet to determine the hidden agenda of sectional leaders who threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria. The questions are: Are their statements deliberate attempts for total resource control over oil revenue? Could South-East and South-South truly form an alliance to be a single entity from other sections of Nigeria? Could some groups of people believe that Nigeria could be easily divided on regional or ethnic lines? How possible is it to move indigenous Christians in the North (like in parts of Kebbi and Adamawa States) to the South and indigenous Muslims in the South (in some parts of Edo and Osun States) to the Northern part of the country in wicked attempts to divide the country on religious line?

It is interesting to note that patriotic Nigerians from all regions, religions and ethnic groups have spoken with one voice demanding good governance, fairness and justice as well transparency and accountability from our leaders. Reading the hand writing on the wall, they should understand the antics of desperate and selfish  politicians among us.

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