Before artificial intelligence or ‘realist’ technology distills the relevance of oil in the nearest future, oil for now is an indispensable commodity without which the world as we know it today would not function, countries that produce oil have learned how to use it as a weapon.
Oil and politics were intrinsically tied together during the 1973 Arab-Isreali conflict, also known in the Arab world as the October war and the Yom Kippur war in Israel. Having to sway Western sentiment in favour of the Arab cause, Arab oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Sheikdoms agreed to reduce their output.
Naturally, less oil in the market meant higher prices at the pump and for the home consumer heating oil. The Arab oil embargo forced Western governments to enact measures in order to safeguard oil reserves.
What the oil embargo did accomplish was to demonstrate the potential oil had as a weapon. The outcome changed much in the modern history of oil and politics. The embargo forced the West to become less dependent on Arab oil and American and international oil companies began looking elsewhere to supplement Arab oil. This heralded the Nigerian oil boom, made the country politically bold in Africa, and our government became financially wreckless; there was Udoji awards and our government sponsored more South Africans in schools, paid salaries for some African countries and embarked on massive infrastructural developments unequalled till date.
However, the importance of oil in politics or politics in oil, and the important role oil plays in today’s Nigerian politics cannot be over emphasized. Some have alleged that, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who was the People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate in the 2019 election, lost basically because of the statement he made about unbundling the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, our goldmine, irked the Nigerian ‘Emperors’ who found the pebble too big to swallow.
‘So Atiku will pour san san for their garri, no that will not happen.’ So no matter how lofty the idea may be, oil was too precious to let go. Sworn enemies began negotiations, the allegedly ineffectual President Buhari of 2015, was suddenly sought after, they smiled at whatever the “baba go slow” president offered, as long as the paper had oil in it-they signed. Even the Justices at the Supreme Court spoke in unclear tunes. Atiku went home lamenting and the government doesn’t seem to be taking note. Politics of oil has spoken, Atiku can continue his lamentations.
In modern post World War II, geopolitics was recognized by the United States very early. It soon became evident in the industrialized era that oil would replace coal as the main source of energy and as the coal mining towns of Newcastle and West Virginia began to die, a New mirage began to rise in the desert of Arabia.
The United State’s keen interest in oil politics surfaced around the close of WW II, where on Feb 15, 1945 US President Franklin .D. Roosevelt flew to Egypt to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullaziz Ibn Saud and had strategic agreement with Saud.This strong relationship has made the US a balancing force in the Arabian Peninsula.
The United States went to war in 1990/91 against Saddam Hussien to liberate tiny Kuwait, after Saddam’s forces declared Kuwait that was Iraq’s 19th province and an occupied territory.
One might even trace the events of the 9/11 and Osama bin Laden’s hatred of America for the nearly unconditional support given by the US to the house of Saud to that historic meeting in the Great Bitter Lake between Roosevelt and Bin Saud.
Roosevelt negotiation with Bin Saud secured America’s future that even today, America is able to fight terrorism in their territory. America has a military base in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The free operation of America at the Arabian Gulf crystallized into the killing of the alleged terrorist and Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Whether we accept it or not America’s presence at the Arabian Gulf has curtailed the onslaught of terrorism in the world, though still a running battle.
Back in Nigeria, south south, Akwa Ibom state as an oil producing state can leverage on the politics of oil or the oil of politics to cause great development for her people. The father of modern Akwa Ibom and former governor of the state Obong Victor Attah selflessly fought the federal government and negotiated 13% derivation for oil producing states from the Federal allocation.
In my own understanding, Obong Victor Attah had a fair knowledge of the politics of oil which he leveraged on and has spiraled Akwa Ibom state as one of the fastest developing states in the country today.
Oil dollar hastened development and basically builds capacity beyond imaginations, fortunately, there is an international oil merchant from Akwa Ibom state who is speculated to be interested in the office of the governor come 2023. This should interest the people of Akwa Ibom and like Roosevelt, engage him in negotiating their collective good.
The international oil merchant has a wide range of experience in the oil politics and the politics of oil that the state can leverage on, and this is an opportunity the people should not stand and watch else someone who does not understand the politics of oil will negotiate less for her common good. And because they do not know the loss in the negotiations, they may organize a thanksgiving service at Ibom hall for less, when God has given the state opportunity for more – the best – through their son, the oil merchant who is equipped to be the game changer for our collective good.
Akwa Ibom people should reflect on this!