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Author Name: Farouk Martins
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Nigeria: South Will Starve To Death Or Bow Like Their Kin To Arabs
Author: Farouk Martins | March 22, 2010



There are three main issues involved here: Farming, Bribe as taxes and Oil sector. They are so interwoven, it takes more than a short article to sort them out. But try we must. We have been sensitized to the dangerous dependence on oil money to solve all our problem including the most important, which is food from our backyards. We made a choice to rely on money from oil farms and abandon food production with the notion that money can buy it all. It’s our downfall. The fact is Southerners are neither in full control of food production nor oil industry. As for bribe takers, they are made up of all Nigerians but the forceful takers in the Armed Forces are eventually controlled by the very powerful. Traders who go into business must make a little profit after transport, imported petrol and all bribes or taxes expenses, no matter who collect them. So if they have to bring food all the way from the North to people who are too proud and lame to farm in the South, it does not make any sense then for a “lame” man to blame suppliers. Without them, he will starve to death. Variety of meat and yams can be from both North South. Blame people all the time for our indiscretion, greed and outright indifference to our poor folks who share no part in the misery we lead them into; nobody listens. How anyone can blame the North for starving the South out of daily suya beats some of our wildest imagination unless we know of any reason why cows and cattle cannot be grazed by Southerners in the South. But a logical reason, why Northerners can graze same cows and cattle anywhere, including the South. When we were growing up, most of our parents had a little shed in the backyards where crops and chickens were within reach. Indeed, those bad boys are known for stealing chickens from the neighbors’ yard. Many of us who left major cities for secondary schools in the deep West or East were surprised that there were agric classes that sent students to cultivate farms. Now, nobody has come up yet and make a case where anyone from any part of Nigeria forced them to stop feeding themselves from their more productive green backyards. It seems that our great grandparents that never saw this modernization were more civilized than us. They taught us to be prudent about food and make sure it is within reach. Some of us even remember that folk song: Iwe kiko lai si oko ati ada, kio pe o, koi pe o. Ise agbe ni ise ile wa, eni ko sise ama jale. It simply translates into "education without means of food production is incomplete and will lead to looting. They were right on! What we see today in many of the backyards are extensions of the main houses rented out. We also see oil farms or bunkering from Port-Harcourt to Lagos. On good faith, Lateef Jakande gave Lagos’ share of agricultural subsidies in the 80s, to the North. We missed meat, tomatoes and peppers for a week and we are crying as if Biafra did not miss much more for a couple of years. If we made do in Biafra for that long, improvise for food, survived and become healthier years after that; a week cannot kill us but make us think again about the future of food in our Country. When a former head of state in Nigeria elevated dash to family support, we should have known as some predicted that we were in for tough time for the rest of our life unless we reversed the downward trend of abysmal leaders. Despite the apparent warnings from some chief of police to the men to stop illegal checks on our road for no other reason than to collect family support and maintenance of their vehicle, no appreciable progress has been made. Actually the order was contradictory, and reversed after some brave policemen’s grievances besieged the House. The soldiers saw it as lucrative check points and mounted their own and so are the joint patrol forces. It used to be the area boys that demanded commission from traders. Well, no more. The armed robbers have learned some lucrative business also. Consequently, bribes and taxes are now competing for limited returns on food that should be tax-free compared to other goods and services. Governor Obi had to put his foot down in Anambra at one point when militants demanded that he kept Federal money while local taxes were their jurisdiction. If there is anything to learn from precedent about oil; in the early 70s Pierre Trudeau refused to pay Alberta’s demand for oil price from the rest of Canada. They would rather sell to USA for world price. Trudeau labeled their Premier, “Sheik” Lougheed. Albertans were furious about the price the rest of Canada paid, so they said: Let the Eastern Bastard Freeze to Death. Today, the argument has changed because world price reduce local consumption. Alberta got a negotiated price then and saved into Heritage Fund; part of which was later used to cushion recession. We are not sure if there is any reasonable person in Nigeria today that can vouch for the money that will be saved if oil deregulation comes to Nigeria. So the farmers, any middle class left and the Nigerians that need, not want, petroleum for their daily activities have nothing to gain from a fund that would be saved if deregulation is implemented in Nigeria. The fund like others will suddenly disappear into pockets, instead of ameliorating environmental damage done in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas that have lost fish farming. As a result, no matter how much sense it makes, like every theory that has worked elsewhere, it is fruitless at home. The expectation is if Northerners get natural resource like oil blocks, there must be a reciprocal benefit to the South. Nomads eking out on arid land for greener pastures southwards are not the oil beneficiaries. They are let loose by license to graze any land at others’ expense. Nomads are groomed to prevent revolts at home or become Trojan horses for their mission southwards. Well, they head the Arm Forces to keep us united, stole our Hausa kin and Middle Belt is next. Bribes, taxes, farming and oil deregulation on killer roads are volatile mix in our Country. Since we have been begging God to come down and save us and there is no relief in sight yet, we may as well help save ourselves. We do not need to wait for the North to feed us in the South. by: Farouk Martins Aresa

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