BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
IN SPITE of the difficult hurdles needed to be surmounted before new states can be democratically created those pushing for new states, especially in the South-East, are not relenting in their quest.
Demand for the creation of at least one more state in the South Eastern geo-political zone dominated proceedings at the zonal public hearing on constitution amendment held inEnugupenultimate week. South East leaders at the hearing took turns to insist that the zone must get at least one additional state to bring it at par with other zones.
The proposed states include Aba from Abia, Adada state from the current Enugu state, Equity state to be created from the five states of the south east, Njaba state from Imo and Anambra states, Orashi from Imo state, Etiti from Abia, Enugu and Imo states.
Before then, the Senate Constitution Review Committee had received 56 demands for new states across the country.
In line with the dictates of the constitution, it may be easier for the camel to pass through the biblical eye of the needle than for new states to be created under a democratic setting.
To sail through, each demand has to meet the constitutional provision as contained in Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that those seeking for a state must have the support of 2/3 majority of members representing the area in the Senate, Federal House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly and Local Councils
The Northern hurdle
If the position of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is anything to go by new states would not be created.
ACF Chairman, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, said inKadunaon Tuesday that clamour for new states could only be successful if the North agreed. Speaking at the headquarters of the ACF during the visit of a delegation from Delta State, led by Chief Isaac Jemide, urging for a state not to be created out of Delta State, Mohammed said: “I will like to say first and foremost that if North does not agree with any state of the federation, the issue of state creation will not happen because we represent 19 of the 36 States, and if this side of the country does not accept state creation, it will not happen. I will also like to say that ACF has already published its position about state creation. We do not believe that at this stage in Nigeria, we need any more states.
“The 36 states are already enough, and so if you increase it more than this, like they are saying up to 50 states, it means there won’t be a place to even sit down and talk. So we have our position clear that for nowNigeriadoes not need more states. We are going to convince our governors and legislators not to accept creation of more states. Let’s maintain the ones that we have for now, and later we may consider more”, he added.
ARG, IYM flay Mohammed
Reacting to Mohammed’s comments, Chairman of the Igbo Youths Movement, IYM, Evangelist Elliot Uko and a chieftain of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, said the ACF leader spoke the way he did because his region had been the beneficiary of years of injustice perpetrated by Northern-dominated military governments.
Said Uko: “Mohammed can afford to speak the way he did because northerners know that their military wing restructured the country to suit them in terms of bogus population, more states and local councils. So they will insist on this evil structure because it favours them. ButNigeriawill never know peace until we restructure this country along the lines of true federalism based on six regions.
“We are not happy with the constitution amendment exercise because the National Assembly is doing piece-meal amendment, which is a waste of people’s time. What this country needs is a fundamental restructuring from military, unitary 36 states to true federalism of six regions.”
Speaking in like manner, Adegbuyi said the golden era of governance in the country was in the First Republic, when Nigeria practiced true federalism based on strong regions or federating units as exemplified by the achievements of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Western Region), Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region) and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe/Michael Okpara (Eastern Region).
He however agreed with the notion of stopping creation of new states. Reason: “We have created many states yet no development. Instead of new states, the old ones should be merged for us to have strong federating units. As presently constituted, the states are not agents of development. Apart from two or three states, the rest are not viable. If states are stopped from collecting allocation from the centre, most of them will collapse. Any state that is spending more than 50 per cent of its budget on recurrent expenditure is not doing well.
“The way out is to adopt the Brazilian model. States should be collapsed and reverted to regions. If they feel that the regions would be too strong and threaten the unity of the country like we witnessed before the civil war, we should have the local councils as development centres.Brazilhas 5564 municipalities, which are autonomous and control the resources they find in their environment. That is why Brazil has recorded rapid development in the last 15 to 20 years because the development is bottom-up.
So, our local councils should be devoid of control from the states or federal government. Let’s create ethnic-based local councils that would be autonomous and control their resources. We should reduce the power at the centre because the centre is too strong, burdensome and unwieldy and is doing very little.”
Adegbuyi stressed the need for restructuring of the polity insisting that “development inNigeriaunder the current structure is a journey to no where.”
The politician, who admitted that no state could be created without the backing of not only the North but also those of all states in the country, however, said “the North is exercising its political power, which the military conferred on it by creating more states in the North. That is why we have mutual distrust and suspicion between the North and the South. We have to redress these fault lines or there will be no development.
“The way forward to restructure the country. President Goodluck Jonathan should send an executive bill to the National Assembly to convene a national conference of ethnic nationalities to agree on how we want to live together. Without it, the disparate tendencies for groups to want to opt out Nigerian union will continue and you cannot stop self-determination.”
Although some stakeholders oppose new states on the grounds of high cost of governance, rising graft, insolvency of states, non-viability of the proposed states and worsening economic fortunes of the citizenry among others, those calling for new states said the measure would help to redress prevailing injustice in the polity.
Former National Chairmanship Candidate of the PDP, Chief Sonny Iroche wants the states pruned down. “I think we should reduce the number of states.
The problem inNigerianow is not state creation but failure of leadership through massive corruption. The states are too many. Creating more states means governments will become too large, more governors, ministers, senators, etc and more money spent on them to the detriment of the desired development.
The government is too large. Money budgeted go into pockets of government officials.Nigeriais bleeding from all offices of all tiers of government. Look at the salaries of our Federal Lawmakers, and they want to add more.”
However, the PDP chieftain said his suggestion was not unmindful of the injustice done to the South East geo-political zone, which has been short-changed on the issue. “Every other zone has seven or six states except the South East that has five. What should be done is to collapse the states in other zones to five, to ensure equity,” he added.
In 1914, when the Southern and Northern protectorates were brought together, the North was just a protectorate without divisions. At independence in 1960, there were three regions – Northern, Eastern and Western.
In 1963, the civilian regime created a fourth region, Midwestern, out of the Western Region. Then Northern Region had 14 provinces; Western Region (7 provinces), Midwestern (2) and Eastern Region (12). In essence, the North had one region and 14 provinces while the South had three regions and 21 provinces.
However, things started tilting in favour of the North when in 1967, and by military fiat, the regions were replaced with 12 states; six in the North, and six in the South.
All through the North-dominated military era, series of state and local council creations were made such that by 1996, the North, which trailed the South in terms of number of regions, provinces and divisions, was further divided into 20 states (includingAbuja) and 414 local councils.
Conversely, the South that had six states and 55 divisions in 1967 was divided into 17 states and 355 local councils.
More states less derivation
As more states were being created, the derivation formula plummeted. Emphasis shifted from revenue generation to revenue sharing. Strategic efforts, as it were, were to made to ‘feed’ the emerging ‘dependent’ states.
For instance, in 1953, the derivation formula was 100 per cent and every area catered for its needs. The formula was reduced to 50 per cent at independence in 1960 and by 1970, it was 45 per cent. Thereafter, we had 1975 (20 per cent), 1982 (2 per cent), 1984 (1.5 per cent), 1992 (3 per cent) and 1999 (13 per cent).
But for dependence on the centre for allocation, military rule, distorted derivation formula and faulty presidential system, the demands for states and local councils would have been lean.
CHANGING POLITICAL STRUCTURE
1960 political structure
Northern Region – 14 Provinces
Western Region – 9 Provinces
Eastern Region – 12 Provinces
1963 political structure
Northern Region – 14 Provinces
Western Region – 7 Provinces
Mid-Western Region – 2 Provinces
Eastern Region – 12 Provinces
1967 political structure
North – 6 states, 41 Divisions
West – 2 states, 17 Divisions
Mid-West – 1 state, 10 Divisions
East – 3 states, 28 Divisions
1996 political structure
North – 20 states, 414 LGs
South – 17 states, 355 LGs
Current structure since 1999
North-East – 6 states, 112 LGS
North-Central –7 states, 122 LGS
North-West – 7 states, 180 LGs
South-West –6 states, 137 LGS
South-South – 6 states, 123 LGs
South-East – 5 states, 95 LGs
Outlook of the pioneer regions in 2012
North – 20 states; 414 LGs
West – 8 states; 180 LGs
East – 9 states; 175 LGs