By Josef Omorotionmwan
THERE was something for which we kept applauding the military juntas of those days, without the least inkling that they were destroying us softly: We could go to bed one night in State ‘A’ and wake up the following morning to find that we were in State ‘B’ – during the night, a state had been created for us!
Their action was quickly rationalised as a way of taking development to the grassroots. Before we knew what was happening, a bulk of the nation’s resources was being spent on oiling government consumption at the expense of developing the people. That’s where we are now – most of our government establishments have over-bloated recurrent budgets that far outstrip capital outlays.
Ours is still a world of curious paradoxes. On the credit side, we have a nation that is well endowed with human and material resources: We rank seventh in world population and we come fifth on the chat of the world’s producers of oil. Yet on the debit side, we are still among the most frugal: our politicians are easily the highest paid in the world and we are at the lowest stratum in the world development index.
Nigeria has since become one country where states are created for the wrong reasons. Additional States ensure improved looting from the Federation Account.
The promise of the creation of new states has become an attractive campaign issue. In fact, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhahji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and their co-travellers at the National Assembly, brought nothing new to office other than the consistent promises of creating new states for their people, even at the time when it was already becoming clear that a wiser way to go would have been the merger of some existing mushroom states.
On Thursday, August 9, 2012, in the piece titled “This patch–patch Constitution”, we attempted to suggest that a stop be put to this rat race on states creation. Understandably, there were pockets of resistance from our brothers from across the Niger.
The blogs on that piece were many and quite ferocious. They believe we were most insensitive to the plight of the South East geo-political zone in its quest for equity and justice, as the only zone in the country that has five states.
Our critics fail to recognise that we have a self-serving National Assembly that is working from the answer to the question. The National Assembly has made up its mind to create six more states, one in each geo-political zone, to bring the number of states in Nigeria to 42. Once the race begins, it never ends. Meanwhile, the North-West geo-political zone already has seven states! Any zone that wants to be at par with the North-West must have a serious catch-up to play.
An Anioma State is possible but not without problems: How do you place it within the geo-political zones as currently constituted? There is an expansionist view coming mainly from across the Niger, that an Anioma State spanning Ika, Aniocha, Ndokwa, Oshimili, all in the present Delta State through Onitsha and Obosi in Anambra State, should conveniently form the much desired sixth state in the South-East sub-region. The proponents of this view quickly point to the fact that the block is strongly united by common language and cultural affinity.
The attack on the South-Eastern view is quite strong. It is mainly from the original Anioma people. They have no problem with having an Anioma State that is composed as outlined above. But they argue that since the emerging Anioma State is largely situated in the present Delta State, which is part of the South-South sub-region, it cannot suddenly be consigned to the South-East by single fiat. For them, Anioma State should be part of the South-South sub-region.
We certainly cannot continue this way. We are fighting for more states, meanwhile, most of the existing states are insolvent and unable to meet the basic need of paying salaries of their workers. And while other serious nations of the world are utilizing their resources to develop their people and their land, we are yet squandering ours on nurturing our bogus bureaucracies.
Nigeria is still the theatre of the absurd: China with a population of 1.33 billion and landmass of 9.64 million square kilometers has 22 provinces; India with a population of 1.21 billion and a landmass of 2.97 million square kilometers has 28 states; USA with a population of 314 million and a landmass of 9.83 million square kilometers has 50 states; Brazil with a population of 192 million and a landmass of 8.50 million square kilometers has 26 states; while Nigeria with a population of 160 million and a landmass of 0.91 million square kilometers has 36 states and striving towards 42 for now, with its burgeoning unemployment rate and a decaying public infrastructure! Nigeria is simply illogical!
If Nigeria is one of the seven most populous countries in the world; and Nigeria could have been one of the five richest countries in oil wealth; but Nigeria is still struggling to be admitted among the 20 great countries at a distant future date, then, there is something wrong. Nigeria must begin to define itself to itself and for itself if it must survive.
This cannot be done by creating 160 million states for its 160 million people. Rather, it can only be done by applying the wealth of the nation to the development of its people. This one man, one state quest is certainly a race to nowhere. It is everyone for himself and God for us all. The malady must stop before we all get consumed.