The South East and quest for equity state
By Pini Jason
I DON’T know why it took so long for the clarification to be made; that neither the National Assembly, nor the Committee on the Review of the Constitutional can create states with fiat. That era belonged to the military!
Let me quickly make the point before I am misunderstood; I share the sentiment of the people of the South East that fair is fair.
Since states are used as units of allocation of resources and values in this country, it is, therefore only fair that the South East geopolitical zone should have the same number of states as other geo-political zones.
I quite share that sentiment because after the civil war, probably as part of the post-civil war punishment, the Igbo were, for many years, helmed into two states!
However, the way the people of South East have gone about the creation of an equalisation state in recent times, is, to say the least, very embarrassing.
They have been pleading and demanding to be “given” an additional state, or that an equalising state be created for them. Up till last week, some political jobbers were running about making ridiculous and outlandish threats that additional state for the South East is not negotiable.
And I asked: who was such infantile talk meant for? Even those who are supposed to know made noise about the additional state for the South East as if we were under a military regime or the National Assembly were a Supreme Military Council!
The following were credited to a former Federal legislator who insisted that: “the creation of an additional state to (sic) South East geopolitical zone, to place the zone at par with other geopolitical zones, was not negotiable”
He went on to insist that “the demand for a new state for the South East zone was a right and not negotiable” and he went on to humour himself that the demand was in tandem with justice, equity, fair play and good conscience!
The former legislator concluded that the National Assembly “is an upright institution known for exhibiting justice and fair play to all manner of people and all shades of opinion”. He then urged the National Assembly to reconsider its decision and “create” an additional state for the South East zone!
No request made
Forget all that mushiness about justice, equity, fair play and good conscience. You would think that a former legislator would know better.
The issue is that the above is the kind of plea you make when you have a matter before the National Assembly. You don’t insist that an institution gives you what you have not asked for and you begin to appeal to its conscience!
One would have thought that a former member of the legislature would know that state creation is a legislative process and not an event that happens at the thud of the gavel! As far as I know, there is no request from the South East before the National Assembly today for the creation of a state. I may be wrong.
Moreover, in the South East, there is no visible evidence that, beyond this kind of cringing by politicians craving for relevance, the zone is seriously strategising for an additional state. First, there is no consensus yet among all the South Eastern states about where the additional state would be created.
A state like Ebonyi is, at best, lukewarm about it. No local government in Ebonyi is interested in being part of any of the proposed new states. In other states, every political bigwig has his own new state proposal. As I write, there are at least ten different new states proposals. That is not even the worst mistake about the whole thing.
As soon as the process of amending the constitution began, there arose entirely new fervour about the new state creation, so strident during the recent public hearings on the constitution amendment that Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who chairs the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment, began to be accused of having a hidden agenda to use the Constitution review exercise as a smokescreen to create a new state for the South East.
This suspicion, of course, ignited the usual Nigerian greed which puts a blinker on “justice, equity, fair play and good conscience”. Other zones began to make demands for new states.
One state alone even wants five additional states created out it! Of course, they are entitled to make their demands, particularly if the South East has failed to properly make its case in a way that isolates other requests. But such demand simply says, if you give the South East an additional, state, we too must get, thus perpetuating the injustice.
It is such clamour that prompted the Senate President, David Mark, last week to disclaim any hidden agenda in the whole constitution review exercise.
As for Deputy Senate President, the ridiculous expectation by the South East that as the chairman of the senate committee on the constitution amendment, was that he would facilitate the writing into the new constitution a new state for the South East! If such expectation were not met, the Igbo would roast him and Deputy Speaker, Sir Emeka Ihedioha alive!
Thus he had to make the elaborate explanation last week that creation of states is not synonymous with the constitution amendment exercise. Creation of states will still follow the provisions of the constitution and involves almost everybody, every legislator and every legislative House in the land from the local government to the National Assembly.
“It is very important that those agitating for new states thoroughly understand the provisions of Section 8 (1) of the 1999 Constitution which spells out the requirements and process for the task” Ekweremadu said.
South East and hunger for power
The Igbo nation must find a way to ensure that those who speak on their behalf on important national issues must understand what the issues are. Because the politics of the area is more driven by hunger for power than struggle for issues and principles, ever so often people just sound off for relevance they hardly deserve.
This not only confuses issues but makes the Igbo look unprepared and unserious about what they want. If the South East seriously wants the injustice of unequal states to be rectified, they have to do their homework and properly strategise for it.
After all, after the creation of Akwa Ibom and Katsina states, Gen. Babangida decreed that the creation of states is closed. But some serious Igbo leaders convinced him to reconsider the matter.
The argument was so persuasive and the strategy so well thought out that he and his colleagues were persuaded to reconsider the matter.
The South East must clear the jokers from the scene so that Nigerians can hear their argument, at least.