The Guardian- Nigeria
November 11, 2009
One-sided scholarship awardsSIR: Over the years, oil companies have used part of their annual proceeds to provide scholarships to indigent and deserving students in Nigerian universities who hail from all parts of this great country, thereby contributing substantially to the development of human resources. We say it is their social responsibility. Not a few Nigerians have benefited from this great gesture including this writer. Apart from easing our financial burdens and making college life more interesting, it creates this sense of indebtedness to the Federal Government that supports the programme, the oil firms that provide the award and the people of those swampy regions where the oil is being drilled.
But the latest development concerning the foregoing leaves little to talk about. If you look up the list of those that all the major oil firms awarded scholarship to this year, you would hardly see any "outsider" on the list, they are all Niger Deltans! First, we need to assert that this new way of pacifying the people of the Niger Delta - so to say - is wrong-headed. Sure, they must be given top priority with regard to the proceeds from "their" oil, but not all priority! To deprive the people of the Niger Delta so as to enrich other parts of the country is great injustice, so also is the reverse.
In a recent editorial of the Financial Times of London (I can't remember the issue) there was a piece of advice to the Federal Government to play safe in her approach to the Niger Delta issue so that Nigerians outside the oil producing region will still feel a strong sense of being involved. It is difficult for a discerning student not to feel marginalised when he/she is intentionally deprived of the few available scholarship. Providing educational assistance in any form is the best way to distribute the dividends of oil to all region. Besides, all natural resources are regarded as belonging to the central government!
Lastly, with the proposed bill to re-define the criteria for claiming one's state of origin, we wonder if the Federal Government will continue to allow such tribalistic and discriminatory policy. And if it does, it will mean someone like me is first a Yoruba man before he is a Nigerian.
Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife, Osun State