Foremost Second Republic politician and elder statesman, Alhaji Isyaku Ibrahim, has said the North does not need funds accruing from oil revenues to survive, considering the region's vast land and the potentials it has.
Speaking to THISDAY in an exclusive interview, Ibrahim said the region also holds the voting power to determine President Goodluck Jonathan's fortune in next year's general polls.
He eulogised the late Second Republic Minister of Transport Minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, stressing that Dikko was not corrupt as viewed in some quarters.
Ibrahim, famous for bankrolling the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president in 1983, upbraided some South-south leaders who said they would block the flow of oil to the North if President Jonathan is stopped from contesting next year.
Some ex-militants had recently said they would ensure the North was blocked from getting oil if the region fails to support the president's second term bid.
But Ibrahim said the threat was not only comical but also ridiculous as it had no basis in current global economic profile.
He said: “Oil is no longer a big deal in global economy as agriculture is fast taking over. See these people talking about oil, they are ignorant. Please help me tell them that oil is no longer the basis of many economies around the globe. And with many countries discovering oil, there is a shift in focus. Oil is no longer the biggest bargaining chip for any nation. Rather food security is what is trending. The era of oil is fast fading. America, with its discovery of the shale technology, doesn't even buy our oil anymore so what is it they are talking about? We in the North have a serious edge they don't have. We have food and we can also deny them food if the issue now is about denying one part of the country a resource that is every one’s. God has blessed us with an abundance of food and this is what they don't have. So please don’t come and start intimidating us with all that oil talk. That is in the past and some people ought to wake up and smell the coffee."
He noted further that the vast land in the North and its population are also a source of superiority.
He said: “We have a land mass of 275 million square meters. That is strength. We have a means of communication. If I speak in Hausa to say BBC or Voice of America, over 70 million people from Nigeria here to Mauritania would understand me. That is power. We also have food like I said. From Lokoja to Jibya, bordering Niger Republic, all you see is food by the road side. Besides, this oil they are boasting about, we have it in abundance from Maiduguri to Niger State."
Ibrahim, noted that some people are courting crisis.
He said the South had not been fair to the North in its accusations that the region only depends on oil. "From 1914 to 1960, the North contributed immensely to the national economy. We have wheat. We can feed Africa with wheat. In the first budget of the First Republic prepared by Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, 17million pounds of the 30 million pounds earmarked was from the North. The oil itself was the handiwork of Muhammadu Ribadu, the first Minister of Power and Steel, who commissioned Shell to explore the mineral resource. But it was revenue from other resources around this country, most of it from the North, that was used to develop the oil economy. So please no one should be blackmailing the North over oil wealth. If you deny us oil, we can deny you food. And we have been feeding the nation for a long time. Have they forgotten the rail line from Kaura Nomada to Port Harcourt in the 20s? We were moving meat, vegetables, fruits, yam and other food stuff to the south since the earliest part of the 21st century and even before. So who is a parasite?" he said.
On President Jonathan's second term bid, he said the North would play a determinant role. "We have the voting power. Of course the President can run. We are not stopping that as it may be his ambition. But we can stop him from becoming president through our numerical strength. The president should not even be one in the first place because has no pedigree. He's just not qualified. There are three conditions to determining who becomes the leader. The first is that the person did not look for the position. Second, the person is not full of anger and vengeful thoughts and that he or she has a pedigree. Can you locate Jonathan in all of these?"
On Dikko, Ibrahim, who said he knew him when he was five years old, said the late minister was not corrupt.
"There was a time President Shagari sacked over 30 ministers on corruption charges. Umaru was not one of them. He was a good man whom I knew very early in life because he was born in Wamba. His father was the first Native Authority treasurer, Maaji Dikko."
Recalling the events on the day Dikko was abducted, Ibrahim said but for his quick intervention, the late minister of transport would have been successfully deported.
“I couldn’t understand how the government of that time came up with an idea to kidnap a man and put him in a crate. That was a barbaric act. There are ways to get someone extradited without recourse to that jungle behaviour. So on the day when Betty called me to tell me Dikko has been picked; I ask if she has called the British Police. She said she has not. I said fine. And I got to work. I was in America and I didn’t want her to tell the police because I wanted to handle it politically. And in 15 minutes, the Queen of England knew about it. In twenty minutes, the Prime Minister knew what happened. And you know the irony of it all was that when they picked Umaru, they took him to the Nigerian House in London. I said irony because it was Umaru, as a student union leader, who advised the visiting Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, to support the building of an office where Nigerian students can visit and stay while in England. The Prime Minister agreed. And it was here they brought Umaru years later as a captive. In any case, the plot failed.”