I read with interest a full-page argument raised by Mr. David Edevhie in the Thisday of November 12, 2001 titled “Oil Windfall Palaver.” The writer failed to understand how the media operates on feature contributions when he took my article in one of the dailies rather too personal to question my command of language and credentials to occupy a public relations position. It may interest him to note that the same article, apart from being published in the Vanguard of October 22, was also in several dailies which include the Tribune of October 11, Daily Trust of October 15, Post Express of October 22, Daily Times of October 3, Anchor of October 18, the Comet of October 18, and a related article in the Punch of September 25, 2001.
It is quite unfortunate that the writer took the issue too confrontational and quite intimidating, which has no effect on my zeal to make my personal contributions to national discourses. In as much as I am not a person who blows his trumpet on his writing skills and achievements, I wish to state that I have neither Toronto nor Chicago certificates, but I am a proud home-based graduate in Mass Communication with several awards to show for my skills in my chosen profession. My few years in the service were purely on merit.
Perhaps, it might surprise Mr. David that, in Delta State where he is at present the Hon. Commissioner of Finance, I won several awards between 1992 – 1994 for my accomplishments in writing and research. I received the automatic scholarship for the best Corps writer, conveyed to me by Chief Paulinus Akpeki, the Special Adviser on Information, while Governor Felix Ibru, the first executive governor, also offered me automatic employment in the Delta State civil service. In the subsequent administration, I was recommended and posted to the Government House as Information Officer. I resigned voluntarily from the Delta State Civil Service after winning the prestigious National NYSC award as the best Corps writer in the Federation. The record is there for you to verify. Most of the awards and subsequent ones were based on my humble literary contributions in the media towards a better understanding of the public on socio-political and economic issues which have been my hobby for years. One of my award-winning researches is titled “Alternative Media of Information for Delta State.”
It seems that Mr. Edevhie lacks understanding of public relations and journalism. Addresses and designations of writers, which at times are acknowledged, constitute one of the mandatory requirements for literary contributions to some of the media. That there were some errors in the write-ups, sounds very mischievous as he was indirectly indicting the editors for not proofreading the material before publication. Even in his, in one paragraph alone (last paragraph, column 2) there are such spelling mistakes as ‘admi?istering, ife federatior, acome, other that’ what,’ the same in several places in the write-up. Such oversights do occur even in international and widely read journals. Mistakes are bound to occur in the face of volumes of contributions received by the media nationwide. The Hon. political appointee needs to visit one of the media houses to appreciate and understand some of their constraints and why the newsroom is described in some quarters as a butcher’s slab and mad room. I have the right to express myself as a Nigerian on the ills in the society and have no apology to anyone. That my address appears in the newspapers does not mean that I write on the instructions of my organisation, but they are purely personal opinions and were used on the discretion of the editors. Please check the Thisday of November 4, 2001 on one of such views I expressed on a sensitive issue of national and international importance.
On his other unsubstantiated, half-baked facts and frivolous innuendoes on the issue of oil windfalls, Mr. David obviously tried to read the points upside down as there was no place where I said the amount should not be shared to the beneficiaries, but that there is the need to save for the rainy day since the revenue is coming in torrents. Recently, we were living witnesses to the oil price which has dwindled to its lowest in two and half years. What would be the fate of the allocation from the federation account if it further goes down without any form of special reserve, since most of the beneficiaries rely heavily on statutory disbursements? I did point out that the country, in this democratic dispensation, is so blessed that monthly allocations from federation account in recent time, excluding the excesses, have reached an average of over N90b, against the less than 30 billion naira shared during the preceding military governments. Even some states are so lucky that they receive their allocations in billions of naira, courtesy of the derivation principle. The last disbursement included the allocation of proceeds from GSM and part of the oil windfall. Yet, many are asking where the dividends of democracy are, apart from the frequent tussles on the sharing of the national cake.
It is ridiculous that Mr. David termed the generality of the public as ill-informed on the issue as he fails to realise that the public at all levels are more educated and enlightened on the reality on ground than to rely on political rhetoric and theoretical frameworks, which are exercises in futility. I have read some of his articles and interviews, as an apostle of the revenue formula, especially the one in the recently published book Business Adventure where his positions on every issue were purely academic, bookish and theoretical which are hardly realisable and achievable in reality.
With due respect and regard to Governor James Ibori, I doubt if Mr. David Edevhie, as a political office holder, ever admitted to the public that Delta state receives the highest allocation from the federation account which, unlike what operates in other states, runs into billions of naira every month. He will agree with me that the fund is comparable and enough to sustain three states in a month. The last allocation for Delta state, for instance, as announced by the federal ministry of finance, was more than two billion naira. When there are figures like this, the question to be addressed by an officer of his intellectual calibre, is how to justify the revenue for the benefit of the electorate. That is what the public he called ill-informed wants to know.
I did point out that on the issue of the excess earning, it is not the first time the country would witness such a huge money from heaven which is not through any technique of intensive revenue effort, but by sheer luck of providence. The accruals had occurred severally during military dictatorship where accountability, transparency and openness of governance were never observed by the imperious administrations. We, however, pray that such an unwholesome incident should not rear its ugly head in the present democratic dispensation where we have statutory institutions on ground, mandated to determine the utilisation of such funds for the benefit of the populace.
It is unfortunate that while the likes of Mr. Edevhie continue to clamour for the disbursement of revenues from oil, it seems they are not bothered to ponder that the country needs to diversify to other sectors because of over reliance on the earnings from oil which make all the economic variables and indicators to exclusively depend on it.
While I strongly believe that the veritable tool for general acceptability of public officers is through fruitful dialogues, unbiased information and selfless service to humanity, it is only through these that the public become more informed and becomes beneficiaries of democratic dividends and never through cheap and wicked points.
This rejoinder by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Tribune January 1, Daily Trust January 6, Vanguard February 19, 2002.