May Former Times Never Haunt A’Ibom Again

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By UbongAbasi Ise
“When a person brings home ants infested firewood, the lizards will arrive without invitation” – Nigerian proverb
In one calm morning of December, 2016, I was interviewing Engr. Chris Ekpenyong, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State at his EEMJM Hotel in Uyo. He had finished his routine exercise at the gym, and was in a sound mood, full of eagerness to download the past to the presence. During the rather lengthy interview, Engr. Ekpenyong came to a point where he accounted with emotionally-laden voice on how he had to kneel down for the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for over 45 minutes begging him on behalf of millions of Akwa Ibom people to do something about the paltry N600 million federal allocation the State was receiving at the time while the wage bill was standing at N1.1 billion. It was pitiable that an elderly man could kneel that long for another man who knew that he was withholding the rights of his people. Unless we, the Akwa Ibomites, are suffering from collective historical amnesia, that is when it could be justifiable in forgetting all that Obasanjo’s government, which began in 1999, put the state and its government through. The struggle of the then State Governor, Obong Victor Attah who was deputized by Chris Ekpenyong, was felt by every citizen of the State, and even to children that were suckling their mothers.

But how did we get to the point where a deputy governor had to kneel down to beg for what his state was constitutionally entitled to? Although before 1970, the derivation from resources was 50% before Chief Obafemi Owolowo proposed the reduction to 45% and forwarded it to General Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of State, who by a decree, promulgated it in 1970 with concomitant seizure of oil produced offshore thus opening the floor for the battle of onshore-offshore oil dichotomy, the real problem was General Obasanjo who emerged as the Military Head of State after the death of Major General Murtala Mohammed. In 1977, General Olusegun Obasanjo would slash the derivation from resources from 45% to 25% while still holding firm on entire off-shore production. The trend of reductions of whatever accrued to the states continued well enough till democracy returned with Obasanjo in 1999 within which the minimum of 13% was guaranteed by the constitution.

Obasanjo would not faithfully implement the 13% derivation, and he would not either abolish the on-shore offshore oil dichotomy. But his government would be very much comfortable to pay N600 million allocation to a state he considered adjunct to the larger Nigerian society, the state of the house helpers and menial jobbers. I could remember vividly when Chief Obasanjo led 2003 campaign team to Uyo Township stadium. I was amongst the sea of heads. Akwa Ibom people were holding breath hoping the Big Pharaoh might have a change of heart and tell them what they would love to hear about the resource control. What Obasanjo did was to waste our time with inconsequential jokes associated with annoying mockeries and ridicules. He was using undiluted Pidgin English to address all the houseboys and housemaids surrounded him. He asked them if they would drink their oil if abandoned for them, probably because they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Sometimes in 2016, Elder Abasiofiok Inyang, the Deputy and Feature Editor of The Sensor Newspaper brought some photographs of starved, gaunt images of persons described as Bakassi returnees, meant to be reproduced on discourse pages. Those pictures were heartrending to behold. The pictures conveyed the dejected mood, untold sorrows and the despairs of those rejected by their own government; those whose ancestral land was taken, and given out to strange Cameroonian government. Those Bakassi returnees, mostly of Akwa Ibom origin, could not face the bitter reality in the peninsula, and were forced out to live a sort of vagrant, subhuman life in the streets of southern Nigerian towns and cities just because of the predetermined, fraudulent October 10, 2002 judgment of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in The Hague, which gave out to Cameroon Bakassi peninsula, which as at the 1953 population census, was part of the defunct Eket Division.

The lost of a large chunk of Akwa Ibom land to the Cameroon might not have been made possible if not for Obasanjo’s consent to prejudgment conditions in a closed-door meeting convened by the French President, Jacques Chirac. Akwa Ibom indigenes in Bakassi were shut out from matters that would come to have strong bearing on their lives and destiny. Obasanjo’s refusal to respect the ICJ verdict would not have won him a cheap international accolade. Our precious land was gone with the Green-tree Agreement on June 12, 2006 and our people suffer just because of one man’s self-pride.

Yours truly was shocked on Sunday 28th October, 2018, to hear that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had come to Qua Iboe Church in Uyo to anoint Governor Udom Emmanuel, his preferred candidate, and presented the underperforming governor to Akwa Ibom people in addition to all the atrocities he had brought on the mass of Akwa Ibom citizenry at every chance he control the federal government. I was even more surprised that he was openly worshipped as a god by our governor and his sympathizers. How could we easily forget the dark days Baba brought into our history? May the ghost of Obasanjo’s dead and forgotten years not come back in any guise to haunt all of us.

While in power, Obasanjo didn’t wish Akwa Ibom well. And he is not going to start now. May Akwa Ibom people rise up above all political divides and condemn whatever Obasanjo endorsed!

Perhaps the Southwest cities of Lagos, Abeokuta, Ota, Ibadan, Ife, Ijebu-Ode, and so on were running short of house-helps from ‘Calabar’ because of emancipative years of Obong Victor Attah and Chief Godswill Akpabio as all the Akpans, the Ekaettes, the Imaobongs, the Enobongs, and the Okons were returning home in droves. Maybe they are returning again to the west to their old ignoble profession as a result of monotonous, clueless, and frustrating government led by Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Perhaps this is the reason the Western Slave General would want to leave his Ota plantation down to Akwa Ibom to endorse a candidate whose government would continue to frustrate Akwa Ibomites and force them back to slavery in the West. May this never happen again!

Obasanjo is not only enraged with Buhari’s government because of the seizure of his oil blocks but probably because of too many of the Akpans and the Okons strategically placed in the federal government. May Akwa Ibom people pay back Obasanjo accordingly by voting out his anointed candidate come 2019.

Sure, he is the Akwa Ibom nemesis, so anything Obasanjo commends in the State will end up spelling doom for its citizens. He can’t just love the people in the state as his own children. In 2014, Obasanjo’s daughter, Iyabo, had written an open letter accounting the neglect her own mother, her siblings and herself suffered in the hands of her father. If a crocodile could eat its own eggs then what else could it not do to the body of a toad?

Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For Comment, send SMS to 08189914609. |ubongabasiise@gmail.com

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