The National Conversation: Oil, Identity, Security and Self-Determination

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SPACES FOR CHANGE’s forth-coming publication, The National Conversation: Oil, Identity, Security and Self-Determination is a must-read for local and international audiences interested in understanding the many problems currently afflicting Africa’s most populous nation.  Written in a conversation format, the report tells a compelling story of Nigeria, through the lenses of young Nigerian scholars and professionals, united with a passion to challenge the many injustices that stem from the increasingly dysfunctional identity and regional constructs threatening the country’s continued survival. Jeremy Weate’s foreword to the report, gives fuller insights into why oil, economic and political discourses among Nigerian citizens have historically been colored by such tribalistic, nationalistic, and sectarian identity constructs.  

Characteristic of conversations in SPACES FOR CHANGE’s 1,800-member Discussion Roomthe discussants, in a no-holds-barred manner, reflected on the state of the nation, examining in great depth, the country’s dependence on oil, the flaws in the current regional structures, the escalating terrorism and insecurity, and the recurrent leadership crisis. The discussants also debated very intensely, the prospects for regional autonomy and the economic viability of the regions, while interrogating the achievability of Nigeria’s continued survival as one nation

The discussions, which started on July 21, 2012, with a post by Olusola Osineye  lasted over 6 days, and attracted 12 likes and 668 comments by Nigerian professionals spread across ten countries in five continents, mainly the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Ghana, Canada, Phillipines, Malaysia and different parts of Nigeria. The conversation started with the post below:


 The identifiable commercially-viable oil wells in Nigeria are in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Calabar and all are located in the geopolitical zone of South South (SS). Calabar and Onne in the region also have recognised international sea ports. 

The South East (SE) region’s major economic clout is entrepreneurship, technology (although fragmented) and modest inroad into industrialization. The region is however land-locked.

The South West! It also has modest industrialization, but the major economic clout it wields is Lagos – the commercial heart beat of West Africa. It also has internationally recognisable ports at Apapa and Tin Can. The North (including the middle belt) contributes the bulk of the country’s agricultural output. The region, like SE is also land-locked and would always require access to regions with international sea ports.

Do you still think Nigeria can go their separate ways without another bloody war? Their survival is too deeply interwoven”.

 

Unsurprisingly, the post provoked intense debates, angry outbursts, sharing of personal experiences and random reflections on the Nigerian Civil War,  widespread corruption, political instability and identity constructs blurring efforts at achieving national integration and unity. Even more contentious was the discussion regarding the linkages between the lingering security crisis and the dependence on oil revenue; and the resulting threats of national disintegration, including the clamor for a Sovereign National Conference. 

The characters, comments and issues raised in the report are real. The opinions belong to the individual authors and do not represent Spaces for Change’s position on those issues.

Excerpts from the report:

 Nigeria is a blessed nation with abundant human and natural resources spread across the six geo-political regions. The fundamental problem leading to most of our national challenges is the extreme focus on OIL. Despite the huge demand for oil, recent innovations and technological breakthrough indicates that demand for oil will dwindle in the years to come. Those who think that our revenue starts and ends with oil should have a rethink. – Chyke Nwokedi

Oil is not necessary for the survival of any nation. Furthermore, any economy that is essentially based on resources coming from one particular part of a nation alone, without adequate self-sufficiency of other parts, is sure to breed only continuous chaos.  – Ugian Elias

Until our extractive laws are well streamlined, most states cannot do much to exploit resources in their areas. We have to therefore, invest heavily in the exploitation of the economic resources peculiar to each region of the federation before we can safely cut ourselves loose from the present fiscal arrangement. – Bologi Jimada

Do Nigerians really intend to live together? That is, are the objectives and direction of the majority of Northern Nigeria compatible with that of the South? …Nigeria would do better if we can live together as one. Where we cannot, the option of going our separate ways should at least be put on the table. No one is discussing separation where there is peace, love harmony and development– Samuel Diminas

Nigeria, as presently constituted is definitely not working. That is a fact. But, the question is: why is it NOT working? Is it the unwieldy structure? Is it because of religious intolerance? Is it because of ethnic intolerance? Is it because of massive political elite’s greed and corruption? Is it because the North wants to rule forever? Is it because of lack of equity, fairness and justice? – OlusolaOsineye

The last time I checked, from a modest estimate of an estate surveyor,the Nigerian market alone can gurantee over $20billion from marketting bitumen products annually,and there is the promise of above $200 billion annual income from international marketting of the products. The above statistics are not so different from those contained in the feasibility papers in respect of bitumen being bandied around by government. If the figures are right, then the promise of excellent turnovers year in year out should adequately compensate for the initial take off fund of $300 million needed by the licenced companies to start exploiting. But I guess the FG is still busy making oil windfall money, and less interested in actualizing economic diversification beyond official platitudinous rhetoric.       –  Olasunkanmi Olapeju

What makes China economy to grow as a communist nation? Manpower! A workforce that gets people engaged in productive ventures and which also provides them financial security. Believe me, the political game that you see today will change when each territory has its own sovereignty. And when capitalists are starting look for advantages within a territory to expand their viability, the focus will be competitiveness between capitalism and making politicians secondary to the public. – MikeTunde Hubscrown Adewumi

The balkanisation snippets from the South South-led government which has been exacerbated by the violence in the north will turn to good for Nigeria. The north’s quest to worship their own God; the south-south’s quest to control their resources; the south east’s desire to control their political destiny and the push by the South West to determine their economic independence simply points to one thing – regional autonomy. I believe in the phased wind-down of economic dependence on the centre, a constitutional amendment that will strengthen our union, foster our unity as a nation and help us maximise our economic potential.Chyke Nwokedi

It is myopic to hold tenaciously to secessionist views. I understand that religious and cultural intolerance can push one to take a subjective stand, but the greater advantages of a united and prosperous Nigeria outweighs such views. I believe we can build a society where tolerance, law and order will hold. If others did it, we too can! –  Olusola Osineye

 What happened to the Igbos during the civil war is the worst type of wickedness. I tremble when I remember. I believe it should be revisited and they should be compensated. We keep on glossing over this issue where the worst type of human rights abuse took place. I keep on wondering why those who witnessed man’s inhumanity to man in this war are still calling for carnage. We must with one voice call for reparation, and insist that no Nigerian should be allowed to feel like a refugee in his own country. – Alero Mobola Adollo

 The basis for seperation is however not as simplistic and clearly defined as it looks. I have always maintained that the North cannot be referred to as a collective like you will the South West or the South East. There are too many tribal groupings in the North to make for an easy or straight forward classification. – Bologi Jimada

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enriching

Hmmm. Sounds like the kind of stuff that deserves investment of my reading time. Am expecting to review that collection

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Spaces for Change

Thanks Enriching! If we have your email address, we would be happy to mail you a copy when it is ready for dissemination.

Arunibi
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Arunibi

Looks good. A mixture of varied perspectives can only produced a balanced wealth of information and knowledge.

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