Please, ignore the rams on this page. They have nothing to do with the issue at stake. They just happened to have strayed unto the page. Yes, rams – and their kindred spirits, goats – are in the habit of straying into where they are not invited – or wanted. But we shall get back to that later. I actually set out this week to tackle Northern leaders on their rather explosive comments on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
For one, I had failed to understand why any patriotic Nigerian would oppose the PIB. But I have since got some tremendous education from the position of the North East, and I could almost say they are justified to oppose the bill. However, in my part of the country, we have a saying that whenever the estate of a polygamous man is to be shared, at his death, the children of each mother bond together to tackle their siblings from other mothers.
They present a united front so that their respective mothers are not cheated out of the patrimony. It is only when they have grabbed a sizable chunk of their late father’s property that they now retire to their respective mothers’ huts to begin a fresh round of sharing among children of the same mother. Needless to say, sometimes, the second sharing is even more vicious than the first.
They could even kill themselves in the process. But like the PDP would say, it would be a family affair (inside their mother’s hut). The above analogy is the stance I would want every right-thinking Nigerian to adopt in relation to this controversial PIB. For I am convinced that this is not as much of a war between us Nigerians (the North versus South, or the rest of us against the oil-producing states) as it is between us (all Nigerians) and the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
I am not much of an Oil and Gas expert, but common sense tells me that I am being ripped off if I am in a Joint Venture Partnership with somebody, I religiously pay my part of the cost of running business and allow the partner to manage the business, but at the end of every business year, I make a huge loss while my partner makes stupendous profit.
It is either the business makes a loss and we share the loss 60:40 as the agreement states, or we make a profit and share it accordingly. But a situation whereby he makes profit and I make a loss points to something fishy. Secondly, why is the Nigerian National oil company one of the only three in the whole gamut of oil producing countries in the world that operate at a loss? If the inability of the other two to make profit is tied to corruption, what does that tell you about the Nigerian situation?
Why would anyone insist that a law we have operated since five decades now, even if it is so good, does not need an updating, some 50 years later? Has anyone wondered to notice that many of those pushing the NNPC to spearhead this PIB crusade are Nigerians who had, before now, worked with the IOCs and who understand all the shenanigans? Or that even as they push for this, they know fully well that they could be out of job as soon as the NNPC is scrapped as recommended by the PIB? Has it also occurred to any of us that those who have been spearheading this push for PIB (either under Obasnjo, Yar’Adua or Jonathan) come from across the country – North, South, oil producing states and non-oil producing states?
There is definitely something these Nigerian experts are seeing which we politicians are not seeing. My take actually is that all of us Nigerians should all come out of our extreme positions (whether pro- or ant-PIB) meet at a middle ground and get this bill passed. We can even call the protagonists to take a second look. If we are uncomfortable with given more money to the NDDC states, okay. Let’s take off the 10%. If the problem is the deafening silence on the National Frontier Exploration Services, let’s include that too. If it is on the non-inclusion of the North in the national gas master-plan, let’s include it – for it is their right.
If the Yar’Adua version of the PIB is defective, let’s show everybody why it is. If we think there is too much power given to the minister, let’s look at it again – bearing in mind that this ‘much-disliked’ Diezani Allison-Madueke might not always be the minister of petroleum resources. Let us even look at the power that the minister enjoys at present and see whether it is not even more scary than what we opposing in the new bill. Let us do whatever we have to do to sanitize this oil industry of ours. The oil producing states do not even need to kick.
For I am convinced that if we get this bill through (without the contentious 10%) Nigeria as a whole would have more money and the 13% derivation of the new regime would more than make up for the 10% we are now killing ourselves over. If what we are presently getting, as a country is about 17% of what we ought to be getting, and the PIB is likely to jack this up to some 80%, that 13% of 87 would more than quadruple the 13% of 17. Everybody would have more money. It is commonsensical. It’s just that those who produce the oil would still have more.
It is rather embarrassing to discover that just three oil producing states get more money from the federation account than the entire north (even though it does not seem to embarrass anybody that Kano and Jigawa states have more local government than the entire South-east zone. Or that the North-West zone has seven states while the South-east has only five. But we’ll get to that later). So, we have to do something to carry everyone along in this oil business. Like I said earlier, let’s shame the IOCs by putting this PIB in place, then, we can retire into our mother’s hut, as children of the same mother, to iron out the other differences.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Back to the rams. Squeezed somewhere inside the pages of this newspaper is the story of the arrest of five goats in Osun State (no, State of Osun). It is coming few days after I read that the secondary school students in that state would now be studying Ifa (and the art of divination) as a subject. Of course, this has nothing to do with going to school to learn witchcraft, as some over zealous born-against Christians have been alluding. The arrested goats (The Osun Five, as my colleagues at the editorial meeting mischievously referred to them) are to be arraigned in court soon.
They are to be charged for violating environmental laws. Already I have put my Osun State correspondent on standby. He is to cover the trial, talk to the lawyers of the goats and, if the tight security would permit, interview the goats themselves. He should watch out for other details – like whether they would be brought to court in leg chains, driven to court in Black Maria, addressed as suspects or as exhibits, whether the male goats would be lumped together in female cells with the female ones or whether the males would join other human awaiting trial males (ATM) and the females taken to the female cells to join the women there as Awaiting Trial Female (ATF).
I would also want to see if the goats would plead guilty or not guilty. And, if convicted, what sentence their offence would attract. But the Osun people should not think they are doing anything new. A few years back, some goats were also arrested and detained in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. I don’t think those ones were charged for wandering. For their offence was more sinister. They were said to have been armed robbers who suddenly turned to goats when they were cornered and about to be arrested. The very smart police officers invited to the scene subsequently arrested the goats.
Not being a good journalist, I had failed to follow up on whether the goats eventually turned back to human beings, whether there were any guns seen beside the goats, if they were eventually discharged and acquitted, jailed, sentenced to death or what. And if they were sentenced to death, where the execution took place and in what graves they were buried. Hopefully, not inside the potbelly of some DPO! Long before the Kwara incident, goats had always engaged in crime. In fact, when I was editing our sister title, the Saturday Sun, I once got the story of a goat and its owner arrested and charged with having sex with each other.
I remember my Niger State correspondent recalling how, even at the station, the goat could not keep away from its fellow accused. It remained literally glued to his side, further confirming that some form of bond actually existed between them. Again, I did not follow the case to its conclusion. But the fore going tells you one thing about our country: while we are unable to confront humans who commit blue murder and get away with it, we can at least pounce on the goats who are not likely to hire any SAN and charge-and-bail lawyers to complicate matters for us. Of course, I am picking a few tips. I live in Lagos where Fashola has been asking us to plant trees around our homes.
I have heeded the call. The unfortunate thing, however, is that there is this gang of some six or seven rams and sheep that pass by my gate every morning. They have taken it upon themselves as their own civic (ir)responsibility to ‘barb’ every fresh leaf that shoots out from the plant outside the fence-wall. Every morning as they pass, they religiously survey the plants to see that there are no new leaves, before they continue their onward journey to wherever.
They repeat the same surveillance on their way back in the evening. It is as though they use the leaves as either starters or dessert. And as if that is not enough, they walk to the other side of the wall and rub their bodies along the entire length, as they scratch off ticks. It does not occur to them that they are also staining the wall in the process. God knows that any day I succeed in arresting any of them, I will not go to any court. I will dispense justice myself. Because there are such things as Asun, Suya, Isi-ewu.