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Professor Itse Sagay on derivation: A conflict between language and status (I)

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By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Those who read Law in Nigerian universities know Professor Itse Sagay very well through his numerous textbooks especially on constitutional law. Personally, I have not come across an author on law like him. My thumps were always up whenever I read any of his books as a student of law.

I have had contact with him when I was writing a column on the back page of ThisDay way back in 2003. He was very delighted with my piece: Professor Sagay, Buy the Bride a Single Bed, whoch i wrote in reaction to his argument on a “double-decker” federalism. Though I was arguing for federalism on behalf of the North in that article, the respect I had for Professor Sagay had to guide my diction such that my rendition easily became exceptionally polite.

But like Dr. Tilde, Professor Sagay too is human. Even as one of the best brains that Nigeria ever produced, the Professor has recently been slipping down from the statesmanship and moderation which his intellectual position heavily demands from him to something less emulating to me. In the following passage, he was quoted speaking like when his student Dr. Tilde abandons caution in defence of the North or his Fulani herdsmen, or like Dokubo Asari in defence of a south-south 100% oil derivation. Listen to my esteemed Professor:

“I have been following the debate like others; unfortunately, those who speak on behalf of the Niger Delta on the issue have failed to hit the nail on the head. They should be bold enough to ask their northern colleagues, where does the nation’s revenue come from - instead of caressing the issue rather cautiously.

“The northern part of this country does not contribute anything to the national purse. If the area that produces the resources has just a token of 13 percent, the remaining 87 percent is free gift to the entire nation, particularly the North that has nothing to show for its existence. At the Political Reform Conference in 2005, we went to the Federal Ministry of Finance to get figures and facts about what each of the zones contributed to the commonwealth. What we saw was amazing; the North-West brings nothing, the same with the North-Central and North-East. The South-East and South-West brings minor but the South-South contributes 91 percent.

“The posture of the northern governors is the height of ingratitude and insult on the people of the oil-producing areas because they would have been bankrupt if not for the revenue that has been accruing to them from the proceeds of oil and gas.

“This is a wake-up call on the people of the oil-bearing region. For instance this is the time to come together and fight intellectually for the anomaly in the uneven allocation of oil blocs in the country. You will observe that because of the long stay of the north in power at the centre, they manipulated the process and cornered these blocs to the disadvantage of the south; today, you have all juicy oil blocs in the hands of the north. Now that Jonathan is there, I would not want to sound being immodest by calling for a revocation of the blocs allocated to the northern businessmen, but from the look of things, they have decided to take the entire South for a ride, so Jonathan should ensure that he corrects this imbalance by allocating more oil-blocs to people in the South to make up for the inequity in the sector.” (from a posting made by Bunyi Fatoye-Matory in ‘Yanarewa Yahoogroups, but originally written by one Enyimba Himself This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )”

All of a sudden the South-south, emboldened by the Jonathan Presidency and the oil resources from its region, has decided to take the whole North and its people for an enemy. And simply because of what northern politicians and Jonathan have done in the PDP, or for what its governors have said recently on reviewing the revenue allocation formula, every northerner deserve a target of their invectives and unrefined language: “North that has nothing to show for its existence.” Haba, my Professor. This is sinking too much. This must not be your words.

As long as such unguarded attacks on the North would come from people like Alhaji Dokubo Asari who are at the bottom of the society’s intellect, they would not even ruffle a feather of a bird in the North, much less stir a concern among its people. But when the cream of our society like Professor Sagay joins in the fray, then there is concern for worry, not for the North but for the country and South-south in particular for some few simple reasons that I will pause to dwell on now.

People at the level of Asari may have no idea of the intricate linkages and mutual  dependencies in the life of a nation. All they may know is the garbage that the North is a parasite: it brings nothing to the federal coffers, as reflected in the ‘evidence’ of Professor Sagay - “the North-West brings nothing, the same with the North-Central and North-East. The South-East and South-West brings minor but the South-South contributes 91 percent.” we can always pardon Asari. He is not an economist, neither is he a professor, not even in dream. His greatest achievement known to Nigerians is that he was a Niger-Delta gangster.

But Professor Sagay knows that federal purse is not the only wealth of Nigeria and neither is oil even its most important commodity. The North is simply not just a bunch of parasites that produce nothing before, now or in the future. It is not also a portion of the country that owes nothing. It all depends on what economic index one is looking at. I make bold to say that to the ordinary Nigerian, including such Nigerian in the Niger Delta, resources other than oil count more to his economy. Take the daily earning of any ordinary Nigerian in Calabar, Sokoto, Ogbomosho, Maiduguri, Umuahia or Jos. How much of it was the trickkle that reached him from oil?

Let me make it clear that owenership of oil bloc does not concern the ordinary Nigerian in the North or south. Until now, I only knew TY Danjuma among Nigerians who own oil blocs. And if Jonathan allocates all new oil blocs to Niger Deltans I will not object to that. In fact, I will support it because one can argue that they are the legitimate owners of the land above. In any case, what better right does a Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo have over such blocs than a Niger Deltan? Moreover, that does not affect the commission that goes to the purse of the federal government.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde is a renowned columnist based in Jos.


Comments (2)Add Comment
written by Ebi, March 24, 2012
Except that Dr Tilde was harsh on Asari, his choice of language in disagreeing with Professor Sag ay was not insulting as some Northern writers do without touching the substance. Nigeria pretends to practise federalism and this is responsible to the agitations in the four walls of the country. To stop this acrimony let each state contribute to the centre a given percentage and do whatever it likes with the rest. No federalism in the world feeds its component units. Ours is an aberration After all this was not done in the first republic. Lets talk now, there is so much injustice in the system.
written by Kachi ugwuanyi, April 15, 2012
Dr. Tilde has spoken. He was, in his opinion which he is entitled to, "objective" unlike his "perception" of Prof. Sagay. My father, a renowned moralist, always told me that truth is bitter. It has always been the same. In this learned x-ray of Prof Sagay's truthful averments and undisputable evidence, any court will accept it having been proven beyond reasonable doubt. I await Dr. Tilde's iota of doubt.

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