The history of Nigeria since independence has been dominated with, how, by attempts to restructure the federation into a form acceptable to the confederating units. The debate is still on, whether to restructure or not to restructure. The oil wealth in Nigeria has attracted the attention of the world to its politics. Nigeria is rated among the largest world producing oil countries but, the story here is not same with other oil-producing regions of the world when it comes to development and welfare of its people. The story in Nigeria since 1956, when oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, in the Niger Delta region is one of neglect, sorrow and disappointment, poverty, disease and squalor. The Niger Delta region is a place of frustrated expectations, deep-rooted mistrust among the locals with oil and multinational companies and, the State.
While, substantial flow of oil money, continue to the state and local governments, the service delivery, infrastructure, development projects have been very disappointing and, indeed worrisome. The local poor have had to suffer deprivation, the oil merchant and multi-nationals take advantage of the corrupt leadership in Africa to perpetrate evil. Oil only benefits the ruling elites and their cronies while, the poor are doomed to suffer a curse. Despite Nigeria’s rich in oil it’s never a blessing to the people except for the politicians who have rich bank accounts within and overseas.
Nigeria is still standing on world indices of corruption, though we have an anti-corruption agency tackling the menace. While most of the estimated $600 billion generated in oil alone cannot be well accounted for by its leaders, the poor, especially of the oil producing communities suffer physical, political, social and economic, health related problems. Nigeria, by October 01, 2017, will clock 57 years of been an independent state. The political leaders we have had since then have not managed the resources to benefit the majority of the people. The oil business remain closely tied to the existing power structures of presidents, ministers, state officials and other big individuals in the society. Oil in other climes brought hope and fulfillment while, here it ruptured the communities when arms rather than opportunities were given to the youth and communities.
The Nigerian oil regions suffer human and environmental poverty because of the wickedness of the oil companies and mismanagement by officials of the state. The officials failed woefully to use the oil wealth to create prosperity and propel the country on the path to development. After all, Nigeria was doing great economically before the discovery of oil, not until after the civil war did oil become a major revenue earner. Nigerian elites focused on sharing the booty from oil sales and abandoned other enablers that allowed decent growth. The human talents that are bound that ordinarily would be channeled into advantage if properly harnessed became moribund. We ran into some major structural distortions that killed everything about our growth and development as a people.
It can be proved that oil is not linked to our economy rather to Abuja, the seat of power. This is the reason why there will be light in the camp of the oil lords while, in that same community where the people domicile darkness is equals to light. Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital is one of the oil rich communities in the Delta region, it produces some 40% of the nation’s oil yet, it has no pipe-borne water, electricity is not connected to national grid, the area simply lack social and economic amenities that will propel economic growth.
The State must encourage laws that will reduce risk to the environment, quality of lives of the people who live in the communities where oil is exploited. Successive governments over the years have misspent the oil wealth which the oil companies have helped to unlock, salting it away in foreign lands rather than investing in education, health, roads, creating employment, supporting the economy instead they collapsed it. Nigeria is the largest oil producing country in Africa, fifth in the world, ordinarily Nigeria, should have been one of the most prosperous states in Africa. But no, the big in the society hijacked all oil proceeds leaving the vast majority to wallow in abject poverty and lack.
It is the inability of the State to manage oil wealth to the advantage of the citizens that led to the anger of the youth from the oil region. This anger metamorphosed into peaceful protests and, eventual hostilities because the State failed to approach the issue from the standpoint of justice and fairness.