Ms Ankio Briggs, a renowned Niger Delta rights activist and one of the leaders of the National Summit Group, says Nigerians have nothing to celebrate 53 years after independence and that the 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates to create Nigeria was a mistake by Lord Lugard.
How do you view Nigeria at 53?
I’m yet to see what we are celebrating. If we are celebrating the fact that we have had independence for 53 years and lived together for a 100 years then, 100 is just a figure. When you are celebrating, you have to show what you have achieved. And the question I’m asking is what have we achieved?
Unity? We are not united in this country. Developmentally, what have we achieved? I mean in things like roads and what have you? These are the things that should matter as we are progressing. We shouldn’t now be building roads at 100.
We should be improving on what we have built may be at 30, 40, 50, 60, not starting the development of Nigeria after a 100 years of being together.
So, for me, those are the things I use as yardstick to measure Nigeria. Like other countries are sending satellite into the space, Nigeria sent a satellite and lost it.
So, we should ask ourselves if Nigeria is not too big a country to be governed the way in which we are being governed today. Should we not have states being responsible for themselves? This is why national conference is necessary.
We have been like this for 100 years, aside the fact that we have been together and this is what everybody tells us as if it’s such a big deal to be together.
America is still together and look at what they have achieved, likewise other countries. Other countries like the Soviet Union, Sudan, have broken up.
For Nigeria, I think by age alone, we are matured enough to ask ourselves some questions and answer them in a truthful manner. We are just deceiving ourselves.
People have said the coming together of different parts of the country is a mistake, do you agree?
I totally agree, but we can’t take responsibility for that, I might say, because it’s not Nigerians that created Nigeria.
It’s Lord Lugard who created Nigeria that brought us together and called us one people. But it’s very clear today that that’s not so. The North is the North and the South is the South.
These regions are made up of so many people with different cultures, religions, foods and different ways of looking at things.
And when you bring them together to say they should look at things the same way, you are telling them to look at Nigeria in only one way.
But one day, some of this people will wake up and say, look, things are not working for us this way.
The people it works for will resist other people who don’t want the process to remain like that. So, this is the problem Nigeria is having and anybody that doesn’t see it like that is not telling himself the truth.
Do we have any basis for Nigeria’s unity?
We have basis in the sense that it’s our choice. It should be our choice and it will be our choice, because that’s why we have these discussions going on now. I believe Nigeria can be a great country and that Nigerians can live together.
Look at the circumstances we are in and we are still able to manage it and to drag it along. But we shouldn’t be managing. We should have some rules and regulations that we all accept.
We should agree on how and when we are going to do it and once we agree, it will be much easier. The problem we are having is that we didn’t agree. And we have not found the basis on which we are agreeing. We must find that basis. It’s possible to live together. But the question is how? What are the terms and conditions?
Nobody is saying we shouldn’t live together. We are saying how? Who brings what? Who owns what? Who controls what? How much should I bring? How much should you bring? How much
What if we keep everything and pay something to the centre? These are the things we need to look at together. We can live together, but how?
Now, how do you think we can live together in peace and harmony in Nigeria?
Well, it won’t be for one person alone. I can only speak for my people. Like for instance, I come from Rivers State, which is in Niger Delta region.
For instance, most of what we are using to develop the country today is coming from my region, from my state.
Now, all I’m saying is that that should not be so. It has made every other state which does not have oil not to bring anything to the table.
So, what I’m saying is that we should have ownership of our resources and pay tax to the Federal Government. That way, everybody will be responsible for themselves.
And then, we from the Niger Delta will not feel that the weight of developing Nigeria is on our back and that we as a people are not gaining anything from it.
What percentage of tax do you think the regions should pay to the centre?
Taxes are usually 5 per cent, 2 per cent, 40 per cent and whatever. It’s something we must all agree upon. I mean, it’s not something that I will say, it should be like this.
What percentage do you suggest?
Well, I think 10 per cent.