Racism at the Olympics

My son lost Olympics gold to racism, says Chukwumerije
From Alifa Daniel, Asst. Political Editor, Abuja


THE Beijing Olympics may have ended, but in Nigeria, a senator, who spent his funds to send his son on a six-month training across the world, Uche Chukwumerije, has fired a protest to the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) over the manner the boy was allegedly short-changed out of contention for a gold or silver medal in the sports. Chika, Senator Uche Chukwumerije’s son, won a bronze medal.

The senator in a letter to the President which he read to journalists in his office at the National Assembly, explained that beyond protesting the injustice done to his son, his action would alert the administrators of taekwondo and the Olympics of the imminent danger posed to the sport by poor officiating.

Alluding to a racial tendency on the part of the administrators, the senator said that his protest was intended to ensure that the presence of African athletes in future competitions will be treated with more respect. “Sports should be blind,” he added.

He prayed the WTF president to replay the tape of this fight in any international sports channel and give the large international jury of Masters of Taekwondo an opportunity to appraise the fight and make their judgment, adding that such a jury with its experience and professionalism is more likely to deliver a merit and rule-driven verdict.

“I am compelled by the insensitivity which the dead ends of WTF official channels have offered to plead for justice and my fears about the deleterious effect of such deadness on the future of our Taekwondo sport to make this protest to you.

“The object of this petition is the poor officiating in the (Men’s Over 80kg) quarter-final tournament between Nigeria (Chika Chukwumerije) and Greece (Alexandro Nicholaidias) on August 23 in 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium). The officiating was so flawed that the victor was robbed of victory, and the defeated awarded an unmerited victory.

“My locus standi: What, you may ask, is my rightful interest in this matter? I am a member of the Taekwondo family – a senior black belt, a promoter of taekwondo in Nigeria and the father of the short-changed player in this disputed contest, Chika Chukwumerije.

On the grounds for his protest, Chukwumerije noted the overlook of a punishable violation of contest rules by Alexandro of Greece. His words: “In the second round of the contest, Alexandro held Chika by his chest protector and attempted an ass kick on the head, apparently in a desperate bid to wipe off Chika’s two-point lead. Holding an opponent while kicking is a punishable offence by Taekwondo rules. The referees overlooked the infraction. No point was deducted from Alexandro.”

He urged the WTF president to watch the tape of the fight and judge for himself.

Other grounds he gave were: “The attempted ass kick by Alexandro totally missed Chika who successfully ducked. But the referees inexplicably awarded two marks to Alexandro and he levelled up with Chika’s two-point lead.

  • Denial of Chika’s score – Almost immediately after this 2-2 score, Chika made a clear kick to Alexandro’s chest. Inexplicably, the referees denied him the score.

  • Second unmerited award to Alexandro – Three seconds to the end of the round, the referees inexplicably gave one point to Alexandro, bringing the score to 3-2 in his favour. No kick, no punch to justify this score.

  • Deaf ears to our Constitutional Right to Hearing of our Appeal for a Review – In accordance with the rules, Chika’s coach and the Nigerian Taekwondo leadership filed a protest to the Taekwondo supervisory board against the poor officiating. To underline the seriousness of Nigeria’s concern for the stultifying effect of this level of refereeing on the future of Taekwondo, the top management of Nigeria’s Olympic Sports Organisation (comprising Habu Gumel, Chairman of Nigeria Olympics Committee; Banji Oladapo, Secretary-General of the Committee, Alhaji Bappa, the Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Ekeji, the Director-General of Sports Development in Nigeria, Nathaniel Nnaji, Chairman, Nigeria Taekwondo Association and my humble self) met the Chairman of Africa Taekwondo Union, General Fouli of Egypt, and re-emphasised our protest.

“We were told that the protest would be considered and a review was under way. The next shock, which hit us was a display on the television screen announcing a tournament for a third position and listing Chika Chukwumerije as a contestant. This meant that our protest received merely a nominal nod, but was never treated, unlike the protest by Britain in an earlier bout.”

He further urged the WTF president to review the tapes and come to his own conclusion.

Chukwumerije went on: “From this account, the following observations are noteworthy: First, by fair officiating, this tournament should have ended 3-0 in favour of Chika Chukwumerije. The calculation is thus:- the three points given to Alexandro were unmerited gifts and therefore a nullity. On the other hand, Chika’s three (3) points — that is, the two (2) points acknowledged by the referees and the one (1) point denied by referees — were clearly earned.

Secondly, the capricious behaviour of the judges was reflected in an unprecedented number of stoppages of the fight for consultations among the referees in the bout. As can be seen in the tape, “on three occasions, the referees stopped the fight and consulted among themselves, thereby giving a strong impression that they were unsure of their readings of the contest. Please compare the stoppages in this fight with referee interventions in all the other taekwondo fights in this Olympic Games.”

Chukwumerije noted that Nigeria was bound to be demoralised, stressing that her only protection and assurance in the sport was the hope that taekwondo convention offers a level playing ground in competitions.

“This hope has now been severely undermined,” the senator lamented, adding that “the international image of taekwondo may be soiled and its standing in the comity of world sports lowered by a growing impression of subjective and unpredictable commitment of our referees to the rules of the game.

He also averred that “the insensitivity of the Taekwondo Supervisory Board to genuine protests against provable acts of poor officiating in accordance with the rules encourages anti-compliance behaviour among practitioners. Compare the responses of the Supervisory Board to two protests — Britain’s and Nigeria’s.

In an earlier bout (Women’s Under 57kg Quarter Finals), the British coach angrily shot up from his seat like thunder bolt and protested in a loud voice against a case of poor officiating. He aggressively followed up after the contest with a strong protest to the board. The supervisory board reviewed the case, played back the tape in full view of the audience, and reversed the verdict of the judges.

In Nigeria’s case, the Nigerian coach quietly waited like a law-abiding practitioner till the end of the bout to make his protest. Nigeria avoided violence of fist or body language. The supervisory board ignored our appeal and the review of the disputed contest did not take place. We gathered from the grapevine that the supervisory council was afraid that a second reversal of an unjustified verdict would be one too many and could deal embarrassing damage to the image of World Taekwondo Federation.”


Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian has been disqualified and stripped of his Olympic bronze medal.

(From the  BBC)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Swede was punished for violating the spirit of fair play during the medal ceremony.

Abrahamian, who came third in the 84kg Greco-Roman category, dumped his medal on the floor after receiving it and strode off in protest.

He was furious at a controversial penalty call in his semi-final.

The call decided the match against Italy’s Andrea Minguzzi, who went on to win the gold medal.

Following the semi-final loss to Minguzzi, Abrahamian, who won silver in the Athens Olympics four years ago, had to be restrained by his team-mates.

The IOC executive board ruled that the wrestler’s action amounted to a political demonstration and a mark of disrespect to his fellow athletes.

They added that no athlete will receive Abrahamian’s medal.

The Last Days of Anita Westlund (1924-2008)

By Adeola Aderounmu

I met Anita for the first time just about 4 years ago. It was one cold and dark winter month in late 2004 and our first meeting was a very exciting one. She had opined that she looked forward to having a very good discussion with me and so it turned out to be. Our meeting enabled her to practice her English language. Anita’s first language is Swedish. She learnt how to write and speak English language when she was over 60 years old. It was one of the few challenges she took after her retirement.
You can imagine how interesting our conversation went as I struggled with my Swedish language and Anita with her English. She was impressed that I understood (and could interpret to English) the few lines that I’d read to her from a book written in Swedish. In subsequent years we spoke in Swedish only as my command of the language had improved but at 80+ she cherished the challenge to always impress with her English. She spoke well of her English teacher.

Anita was a jovial old lady. She radiated warmth and gladness in her family and to the people that she knew. She was a good and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She had a good heart, was compassionate and always wanted everyone to be happy. This was not just in her old age. As I understood it, that was her life-that everyone that she knew or got acquainted with should be happy.

While she was alive, Anita and her equally wonderful living 86 year-old husband Rune Westlund prayed for their entire family every morning at the breakfast table. They are philanthropists and they support homeless people in their local council. Through their life-long dedicated involvement in church activities, they accommodated foreigners in their home and helped them to settle to life in Sweden. They are also paying for the school fees of a certain adopted child living in India. They longed for the good of all and to see smiles on faces of other people. Last year, they won an award for their seflless service to humanity.

It came to us as a rude shock when Anita was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer of the liver on the 11th of July 2008. Three months ago at the ripe age of 84, Anita could still ride her bicycle to the shopping mall and she could walk briskly to the swimming hall for her swimming exercises. No one could have suspected that she was living with such an illness because she was looking healthy and vibrant as usual until when she took ill at the end of June.

Anita took her situation in good fate and she cracked wonderful jokes until the last day that she lived on earth. She spent the last 2 weeks of July visiting her entire family both near and far. As the end approached, she did everything that she wanted to do-travelling, talking, laughing, eating good food, drinking wine and most of all-giving.

When the phone rang so early at 0844am on Sunday the 10th of August 2008, the only thing on my mind was “Anita may be dead”. So it turned out to be. Five minutes before the phone rang; I’d woken up partially but still lying on the bed and having Anita on my mind. Some of the moments we spent together were being relayed in my mind and then the news of her death revealed to me that I was very well connected to her. She was the great-grandmother to my daughter but she also treated me as one of her grandchildren.

I’m going to miss Anita just the same way that I’d missed my biological grandparents in Nigeria. One of my Christmas presents this year will not read “From Rune and Anita”. It will most likely read “From Rune”. During her farewell visit to us on the 21st of July, she wanted us to remember her and all the good times we had together. Surely, I will never forget you Anita. It will not be because your name will be missing from the Christmas and birthday gifts. I will miss you because you were a wonderful person. I will miss you because you showed me love as much as you did to your children. Far away from home, I felt very special because of you.

I cannot write everything about your life history but I know that you came into this world on the 30th of May 1924. I know some of your views about life. I’ve heard very exciting and wonderful stories about you. I know that one of your main characteristics was openness of mind and heart. You were not afraid of what you didn’t know like many other people are. It was your open heart that made you and your husband such great friends and helpers of the immigrants in Sandviken, Sweden. I am very sure that the Burmese refugees in Sandviken will never forget you as well.

You completed your race and journey the best way possible. I completely understand and respect your wish not to make this journey again because I can only imagine the pain when you made that comment just 48 hours to the end of the race. You will always be in my heart.

Rest in peace Anita!

Anita’s Photos on Facebook

Article also available at The Nigerian Village Square

Nigeria’s Fake Anticorruption War

By Adeola Aderounmu.

Corruption is still the biggest problem with Nigeria. It’s like a curse because despite the pockets of prosecution that we witness every now and then, it seems that things will never change.

I think that the problem will not go away because the fight against corruption is very partial and carries no sincere purpose.

If a man can plead his way out of prosecution then the war itself is absolutely useless. We have seen corrupt politicians arrested today and released tomorrow and case closed!

What kind of anticorruption war is that?

Moreso, some people have never been questioned about their stolen wealth. It gives an impression that some thieves are smarter or more powerful than the others. For example, it is either Babangida is smarter or more powerful than Bode George.

Imagine this, Babangida is alleged to have stolen more than 12 billion dollars. If the allegation is wrong, we’ll never know because he has not given an account (at least not a public one) of how Nigeria’s finances was managed during the gulf war.

The result of this insincerity and fake war on corruption is that we still have more than 90 million Nigerians who don’t know what the next meal would look like. The result also included inability to sustain good and qualitative education. It extends to Nigerian highways listed among the worst in the world. More than 400 people will die on the road today!

The insincerity of governance in Nigeria means that power generation is getting close to zero. Soon, it will be back to the Stone and Dark Ages.

It is not too late to bring corrupt politicians to book. The prosecution should be total, resolute and absolute. Monies should be returned and used to build the country.

But who are am talking to? Who will bell the cat? An illegal president? The entire system is corrupt and it seems that some things will never change.

Are Nigeria and Abuja two great mistakes?

Are Nigeria and Abuja two great mistakes?

By Adeola Aderounmu.

For a while now, I have been wondering if Nigeria was/is a mistake. Maybe four or more countries would have been viable and prosperous instead of the one nation (Nigeria) populated by more than 90 million extremely poor people.

Indeed in the absence of corruption and very bad governance maybe Nigeria would have become the greatest country on earth. We will never know. What we know is that there are people in Nigeria whose 14th generation from now will not experience poverty because some members of their families have looted and are still looting and preparing for them-the unborn.

In the same set up called Nigeria, for example in the Niger Delta we have people who are living on less than 1 dollar a day. As these people continue to suffer, treasures and wealth are taken away from them daily and part of this wealth was used to build a new city called Abuja.

Instead of building a new capital called Abuja the right thing would have been the building of the Niger Delta. If mumu and idiots like Babangida have built the Niger Delta, we would have no militants today. There will be no MEND. There would not have been any kidnapping in the Delta and Ken Saro Wiwa would not have died.

So the questions remain: Would the people in my area of West Africa have been better off today if the vagabond Briton called Lugard did not establish NIGER AREA (Nigeria)? If the successive evil governments of Nigeria did not introduce poverty as a way of life, would MEND and other criminal militants be waging war against Nigeria today?

Confronting the rot in LUTH By Hope Eghagha

Culled from the Nigerian Guardian August 5 2008

AS we try to define ourselves as a nation, there are certain institutions that ought to stand firmly and serve as centres of excellence. No nation worth its salt ought to toy with the health of the people. One of the institutions I grew up to meet as an excellent health centre is Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba. Its name was a dread, as the final arbiter on health matters. I remember the first time my General physician referred me to LUTH, the question that cropped to my lips was: ‘Am I in such a terrible shape? This was back in the 1990s. I reluctantly went, endured the slow pace, incompetence but eventually went home smiling. Since then I have had cause to go to LUTH on visits on several occasions. My ears had always tingled with stories of gross and criminal inefficiency in that ‘centre of excellence’. I was a distant observer until the events of June 23, 2008.

A husband and his wife, Israel and Viviane Emuophe, vibrant and hopeful in the abundance of life offered by life were knocked down by a drunk driver on Sunday the 22nd of June right in front of a house along Lekki/Ajah road where they had gone visiting. Good Samaritans rushed them to a clinic nearby. The wife, a Youth Corps member serving in Lagos State and eight months pregnant was badly wounded on her lower limb. As for the man, we found out later that he was fractured on both legs. The doctor in the temporary hospital in Ajah advised that the limb be amputated immediately. Instead of referring the patients to LUTH or Igbobi for specialist intervention, he kept them there throughout the night. He was more interested in his hefty fees (over a hundred thousand naira for stabilising them overnight!). Friends and relations on the ground advised against outright amputation. In their view, such a decision should be taken at Igbobi. The patients were moved to Igbobi early the next morning. Igbobi advised that the lady be taken to LUTH. That was where we encountered criminal inefficiency and neglect of the first order.

The lady arrived at LUTH at about 10 in the morning. It took the intervention of a retired Matron in LUTH for the victim to receive minimal attention in the Emergency Unit. We were asked to buy almost everything that was needed to treat an emergency case. We patiently did. The decision was announced that there would be surgery. The patient was moved to the theatre. As at 4p.m., nothing concrete had been done. That was when we decided (Dr. Clement Edokpayi and I) to call up some of our colleagues who work in LUTH. We also called up people in town who had some influence in the health sector to reach people in the management of LUTH. A matron on duty gave a false report to one of our contacts that the lady was already in the theatre. I countered that immediately. We found out that as at that time, there had been no official communication with any of the consultants to handle the job. Our intervention worked. The doctors showed up.

We started the process of getting this and getting that. At about 9.30p.m. when all was set for the surgery, we were told that an x-ray had not been done. She was wheeled back to the x-ray room where I confronted the Professor in charge. His explanation was plausible. Except cases are referred to him, he cannot do an x-ray. Finally, the x-ray was done and at this time we were only interested in saving the life of the lady. Her baby we suspected was gone. Her little cries of ‘I want my life’, made it imperative for some action to take place. Surgery intervention finally took place at about 12 midnight. My little Christian sister lost both her right limb and her eight month pregnancy.

My position is that in LUTH the simple routines and procedures expected have been compromised. Nobody is in charge. No doubt, the consultants and doctors are efficient. In their private clinics, they do very well. LUTH is currently a carcass of itself. This is not the LUTH that the wife of a Head of State patronised when she was going to have her baby in the 1970s. The equipment is obsolete. LUTH is a danger to health care. The entire institution is a mortuary. Death smells around the wards. In the Modular Theatre, referred to as one of the best in the country, surgery could not take place there because there was no back up to power supply. Most of our colleagues we discussed the matter with simply agreed that the place needs to be overhauled. The concept of management currently in place should go. Who will overhaul LUTH?

Indeed LUTH is a victim of the corruption which has steadily crept into the country. The Obasanjo administration announced and launched new equipment for LUTH with fanfare. As we have found out, it was a fluke. None of those items deserves to be called modern. They were second hand, or Tokunboh bought for the purpose of making money for the boys.

LUTH needs to be thoroughly reorganised, re-structured, re-ordered. A new management that can enforce its rules should be put in place. If a patient comes in at 10 a.m. and does not receive attention until 4p.m., somebody should be penalised for it. This should be routine as it is in the medical profession. We do not need to report to SERVICOM for nurses and doctors to do their jobs. Most of the nurses are so indifferent to patients that I wonder where they were trained. During my last visit to the female surgical ward there was a breast cancer patient who kept howling for the duration of my visit. The nurse kept passing her by. I was told that she had been in that condition for three days. Where has the human spirit gone in LUTH?

The Minister of Health or the Federal Executive Council ought to intervene directly in LUTH. Management is practically dead in the place. Most of the consultants are first rate when they have to work outside LUTH. However, they work in an environment that lacks the basic tools. They cannot perform magic. Sadly, the available equipment is not efficiently utilised. This is the crux of the matter. There is too much indifference in the place. Too many patients die from lack of care and attention. Too many people are dissatisfied with working conditions.

It is very easy to give explanations and rationalise our inadequacies. I expect that LUTH would soon issue a rejoinder claming that its facilities are excellent and that staff are doing their best. But the truth is that no one who has the means takes his relation to LUTH. They simply go abroad. Perhaps this is at the core of the problem. The people who are in power do not patronise the hospital. German and American hospitals wait for them. Even our President has no faith in LUTH. But is a turn-around of LUTH not possible that would make the First Citizen of the country patronise it when next he is ill? With the necessary will, it is possible. This is all I ask for so that another young lady or man would not lose precious life or limb or both.

Death of Nigerian immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea (The Nigerian Guardian Editorial)

Culled from the Nigerian Guardian Monday 4th August 2008.

THE shocking news of the death of two Nigerian children travelling with their father aboard a boat ferrying immigrants across the Mediterranean sea en-route Italy once again brings to the fore the harrowing experience of many Nigerians who are desperate to escape the hardship in the country. The depressing economic condition in the country is taking a toll on the population. How to address this problem and check the flight of Nigerians from their own country for largely economic reasons remains a major challenge for the country’s leaders.

The two children reportedly died at sea of starvation and were thrown overboard by their father who was travelling along with 74 other illegal migrants before the Italian coastguard in the Mediterranean Sea picked up their boat. The migrants had set off from Libya. This is happening at a time the Italian authorities have declared a state of emergency on illegal immigration.

A fortnight ago also, 14 Nigerians perished in the same Mediterranean Sea off the Spanish coast. A small open boat, presumably not seaworthy, carrying over 37 Nigerians, capsized in rough seas with waves of up to six metres on July 8. A Spanish maritime rescue ship reportedly managed to rescue 23 of the illegal immigrants while 14 were unaccounted for. The dead included two pregnant women.

This is not the first time that Nigerian illegal immigrants have perished in the Mediterranean waters in a bid to enter Europe. The Organisation for Human Rights in Andalusia (APDH-A), a Spanish human rights group says more than 921 illegal immigrants died at sea trying to reach Spain in 2007. Out of this number, 732 perished close to the western coast of North Africa at the start of their journey while another 189 died near the coast of Spain. The majority of the immigrants were from sub-Saharan Africa of which Nigerians constituted the largest percentage.

These incidents should compel a sober reflection on the worsening state of the nation’s economy that has made the country hostile and uncomfortable for many people thereby forcing thousands of citizens to flee the country even at great risk to their lives. The death of these unfortunate Nigerians in search of better opportunities in Europe, even through illegal routes, is a sad comment on the Nigerian situation. It is sadder still that reports of tragedies such as these do not discourage other would-be illegal immigrants.

The embassies are besieged daily by thousands of Nigerians who are seeking visas and hoping to remain abroad illegally. The presumption is that the streets of Western countries are paved with gold and that life outside Nigeria would necessarily be better. Many have lost their lives and hopes in the process.

The harsh economic situation in the country is to blame. There is mass unemployment, social infrastructure is decaying, there is insecurity in the land, poverty stalks the land as virtually every sector of the economy is depressed. The list of woes is unending and nothing could be more scary. Since the 1980s when the economy took a plunge for the worse, large numbers of Nigerians have sought refuge abroad to escape the hardship at home. Many believe that doing odd jobs abroad is better than languishing at home. This is the driving force.

Consequently, thousands of Nigerians queue up daily, at the gates of foreign embassies in the country seeking visas. The embassies have devised stringent conditions to prevent many from obtaining visas. As a result, only a handful of visa applicants succeed. In utter desperation, therefore, those denied visas seek alternative means to accomplish their desire. To worsen the matter, a syndicate of unscrupulous Nigerians has capitalised on the ugly situation to defraud unsuspecting would-be immigrants with promises of visas and jobs abroad on payment of fees running into thousands of dollars.

It is these crooks that organise such hazardous and illegal trips across the Mediterranean Sea after the victims have paid the agreed fees and have, in most cases, been issued fake visas. In the case of immigrants whose destination is Europe, the syndicate would first transport them to any of the North African countries from where they are ferried by rickety boats across the sea. It is in the course of such ill-conceived trips that accidents occur.

This has smeared the image of Nigerians across the globe. Consequently, on arrival at foreign entry points, security operatives subject our citizens to untold harassment and inhuman treatment. Unfortunately, Nigerian government officials at home and in foreign missions have not helped matters. In a way, the maltreatment of Nigerians abroad is a reflection of how Nigerians are treated by their own government.

To discourage more Nigerians from fleeing abroad as illegal immigrants, governments across the federation would have to improve conditions at home, and make the governance process more citizen-friendly

Northern governors and the politics of oil BY REUBEN ABATI

Culled from the Guardian Newspaper Friday August 1 2008.

THE big news of the week in my estimation is the declaration by the chairman of the Forum of Northern Governors, the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu at a programme tagged First Northern Agricultural Summit on Monday, July 28, to the effect that Northern Governors have resolved to turn their back on oil revenue and develop the agricultural resources of the North. Dr Aliyu was speaking on behalf of the 19 Governors of the Northern states of Nigeria, and at the same forum, his views were further echoed by the Adamawa state Governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako. Dr Aliyu declared: “The future of the north lies in our hands. We should today begin to shape our destiny. As a Nigerian of Northern extraction, I feel very unhappy when somebody describes me as a parasite because of oil, when I know that I have the capacity to solve my problems and probably do even better through agriculture and education.” And so the North wants to go back to agriculture, with the hope that the financial sector of the economy will provide necessary support.

The politics of this declaration is important: the Northern Governors are responding directly to widespread insinuations in the Southern part of the country that the North is rather parasitic, contributing little to the commonwealth and yet getting more than a lion share of the national cake. Over the years, this distrust of the North has been expressed ever so loudly by Southern leaders and interest groups; thus turning geography into one of the more delicate sub-texts of Nigerian politics. Issues of contention include the population of the north, the political delineation of the North, resource allocation, the relatively low contribution of the North to national GDP, and the unusually large presence of the north in positions of power and authority. At the centre of this is the politics of oil, the allocation of federal revenue accruing mainly from the sale of crude oil.

The ThisDay newspaper in reporting the Northern Governors quoted them as saying: “North can survive without oil”. The Champion gave the story an even more provocative edge in its headline: “To hell with your oil: North tells South”. This is perhaps the most radical response coming from the north so far on the question of oil and its control since 1958. Before now, the Northern intelligentsia had tried to argue that the crude oil in the Niger Delta belongs to all Nigerians and not to the owners of the land from which it is extracted. The late Dr Bala Usman on many occasions even pushed a curious argument based on geology to wit: the oil deposits in the Delta flowed, over the years from the Northern parts of the country, and so the real owners of the oil in the Delta are the people of the North. A second notable response was the attempt by the then North-dominated Federal Military Government to find oil by all means in the North. So much money was spent on a search for oil in the Chad Basin, until the explorers got tired of searching. And now in 2008, the Northern Governors, for the first time have declared that “the Niger Delta can go to hell” with its oil and that without oil, the North can and will survive.

One of the earliest reactions to this came from the Arewa Consultative Forum, the social and political forum for Northern leaders, with the ACF saying that Northerners are indeed “lazy and parasites who rely on other regions for survival. There is no reason to run away from the truth.” But in s strange balancing act in the same statement, the ACF blames the Niger Delta for the economic woes of the North because according to it, people of the Niger Delta raided the Middle Belt for slaves during the slave trade era. All of these seemingly entangled issues can be taken apart.

The intervention of the ACF is at best a form of damage control, for if prompt effect were to be given to the wishes of the Northern Governors, the development process in the north which is essentially dependent on oil revenue will grind to a complete and final halt. But Dr Aliyu and his colleagues could not have been calling for a sudden stoppage of the sweet and free funds coming for the Federation Account. Their statement was clearly politically inspired and aspirational in terms of their development projections for the North. But talk is cheap. However, it is not only the North that is dependent on oil, it is not only the Northern states that are parasitic, nor is it only the people of the north that have become lazy. The curse of oil affects every part of Nigeria and all the people. Nigeria’s national productivity index is one of the lowest in the developing world.

The black gold is at the root of most of the ills in the Nigerian society: the laziness of the leadership elite, the bowl in hand, beggarly conduct of the states and the imposition of unitarist modes on the governance process in spite of the federalist principles in the Constitution. It is the entire country that is lazy and parasitic therefore: and it is one of the reasons why the people and the militants of the Niger Delta have had to continue to remind the rest of the country to become productive and make a contribution to the national pool instead of stealing Niger Delta resources in a greedy and unfair manner which leaves nearly nothing for the real owners of the resources. This wake up call had been long in coming but it is now more strident with the insistence of the people of the Delta on federalism, the militancy in the creeks and calls for resource control.

It is perhaps not difficult to see why the North is specially targeted and labelled an unproductive part of the Nigerian Union. The ACF accuses the people of the Niger Delta of raiding the Middle Belt for slaves during the slave trade era. The slave trade ended over 200 years ago. Where is the connection with the development crisis in the North? The ACF’s statement in this regard is meaningless, and this is unfortunate coming from the same ACF that is humble enough to admit that the South is saving the North. The problem with the North is its elite. Nearly every politician who becomes a big man in the North wears a big babaringa and refuses to work. More than any other group in Nigeria, the northern elite have had more access to state resources and more control over the same resources, but this has not been used to bring development to the people.

The same oil resources that Southerners claim Northern leaders have taken have largely been used to oppress the poor in the North and sustain feudalism. In this regard, the average Northerner is just as aggrieved as the average Southerner, for in the end, the patterns of dispossession imposed on this society by successive governments at all levels have produced uniform grief. The underdevelopment of the North has nothing to do with the slave trade; it has a lot to do with the attitude and lifestyle of the Northern man of power. Northern Governors trace the de-industrialisation crisis in the North to “international conspiracy against the North”, If there is any conspiracy at all, it is internal and it is the conspiracy of the northern elite against their own people.

One example: Governor Danjuma Goje of Gombe state has approved for himself and his predecessor in office a sum of N200 million as “executive pension”. The North, like the South, is in need of new leaders, not rent-collectors. If Northern Governors want development, they must begin with changes at the level of attitude and lifestyle. Nothing in Northern agriculture as proposed can sustain their present lifestyle. Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako, the Adamawa Governor, was right when he lamented as follows: “No nation has ever enjoyed lasting peace and stability or could ever survive when only a few of its citizens wallow in wealth and affluence at par with the rich of other nations, while the rest of its citizens are entrapped in poverty.. the simple truth is that the above reality obtains more in the North than other parts of the country”.

Northern Governors have been holding meetings since 1961, and at every meeting, they talk about the same issues – agriculture, education and development. But nearly 50 years later, there are more poor people in the north than other parts of Nigeria. The streets are full of distracted kids, with bowls in hand begging for alms during school hours. When UNICEF reports that more than ten million Nigerian children of school age are out of school, they can be found mostly in the North.

Northern Governors want to focus on agriculture, but to use agriculture as a launch pad for growth and development, the states must invest first in education. Who will work on the farms that the North will set up? In a few years, the growing population of almajiris on Northern streets will be old enough to be mobilised for riots not for any productive activity. It is a shame that many years after independence, the North continues to enjoy an affirmative action privilege in education and politics, which easily annoys Southerners who feel that they face much stiffer competition in seeking and gaining access to opportunities. Who will manage the agricultural renaissance of the North? This same set of fertilizer-stealing, rent-collecting elite? And where is their blue-print?

North-South relations in Nigeria are often constructed in form of rivalry and competition, and this is discernible in the tone of the statements by the Northern Governors and also the ACF. But it is an unhealthy competition that promotes further divisions. Rather than dismiss the Niger Delta and its oil, the Northern Governors should show humility and gratitude. If they are serious, they should be more interested in raising constitutional questions and seeking reviews which would free the North and other parts of Nigeria from the tag of “parasitism”, and which in the long run will ensure a return to federalism under which every state in Nigeria will be required to become productive. Under that new arrangement, the Niger Delta people will be glad to go to “hell” as advised