By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE Distinguished and Honourables: Some of the ideas here may be repugnant to you but with the deep spirit of altruism, which is your hallmark, it will be less difficult getting you to subdue your individual interests for the greater good of the larger society.
After all, governance is about human needs, the satisfaction of which is the sole justification for government. Man is hardly satisfied, for too long, with the status quo ante, hence he constantly seeks to reorganise the world around him, with a view to getting better satisfaction from the reorganisation. This is in tandem with the practice at the National Assembly where constitutional amendment is a recurring exercise.
When a government gets to the point where it exists only for the sole purpose of paying salaries – living from hand to mouth, as it were – and that devious purpose is not even being efficiently met, that nation must begin to think of restructuring itself. We certainly cannot carry on this way – a situation where our teaming youth population remains unemployed; coupled with the fact that a large segment of the federating units is in default of payment of salaries to the few workers, sometimes in excess of 24 months, is totally unacceptable.
Desperate situations call for desperate actions. In concrete terms, Nigeria must return to regionalism – this time, the country has to be restructured into eight regions via the instrumentality of acquisitions, mergers and consolidations, which have worked so well in our banking sector.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria stood on a tripod in the name of Regions – the North, the East and the West. In August 1963, a fourth entity, the Midwest, which was carved out of the then Western Region, came on board. Essentially, the Midwest remained the only region that was democratically and constitutionally created, the rest of the present 36 States, being military contraptions.
There is the easy argument that the creation of more States is a way of taking development to the grassroots. This argument must have limited validity because no one, even among the greatest advocates of states creation, has enough data to support the view, for instance, that if Nigeria were bulkanised into 1000 States, its development strides would correspondingly increase by 300 percent.
The grassroots argument soon got into the heads of the military juntas and once they embarked on indiscriminate creation of States, there was no stopping them.
People have toyed enough with the zonal arrangement in which the country was arbitrarily divided into six geopolitical zones. This gained currency during the Constitutional Conference of 1995, when an attempt was made to enshrine it into the Constitution. It is doubtful if the founding fathers intended the zones to serve merely as occasional outposts for loose political party congresses, business seminars and religious conventions.
This explains why we have consistently advocated the abolition of the six-zone structure and the establishment in its stead, an eight-zone structure, which would promote equity and stability. This is also one way of building on a past that has been well defined and tested as a foundation for our continued existence, especially as it affected the old minorities of the North, the West and the East before the civil war. Nature and equity have defined what zonal structure we should have starting from where we were as at 1967.
For maximum efficiency, under the eight-regional arrangement, the North and the South will each have four regions. While the North will include the Northwest, North-Central, Northeast and the Middle Belt; the South shall have the Southwest, Southeast, South-South and the Midwest.
The eight regions will become the administrative units immediately below the Federal Government. The 36-States structure shall cease to be units of administration. Each Region shall establish its own Local Government system.
Under the new structure, we shall have 36 Senators – one from each of the existing States; and there shall be 109 members of the House of Representatives – one Rep from each of the existing Senatorial Districts; and membership of the Regional Houses of Assembly shall be made up of the existing Federal Constituencies from the region.
Most importantly, the legislature at all levels shall operate on part-time basis where they will assemble for a few weeks in a year to rapidly pass Bills and approve the budget for the coming year.
In the particular case of the Midwest Region, the supporting argument is that no reasonable nation ever throws away the good thing it already has while embarking on an unreasonable wild goose chase. Under the former regional arrangement, the Midwest was very viable and there is no reason to believe that it will be any less viable now.
Again, it is reasonable to expect Bayelsa State to form part of the new Midwest region, particularly against the backdrop that a large part of today’s Bayelsa – Sagbama and its neighbouring communities – were originally part of the former Midwest Region. It is another case of the chicken coming home to roost.
Besides, this will give full meaning to the concepts of homogeneity and congruity, which were largely ignored in earlier arrangements. Most Bayelsans are quick to trace their roots to Benin City. And a situation where Lamkpese at the extreme northern flank of Edo State bordering Kogi State is grouped in the same zone as Ogoja in Cross River State is simply amorphous and does not make for political or administrative convenience.
With Bayelsa State in the proposed Midwest Region, we shall have three States each in the Midwest and the South-South Regions.
The eight regional structure will give expression to the aspirations of the nation’s minorities as it will summarily address the inherent alienation of the old minorities of the North (the Middle Belt), the old minorities of the East (the South-South) as well as the old minorities of the West (the Midwest).
Certainly, this will be one sure way of having birds of the same feather flocking together. There is also no better way of infusing some sanity into our over-bloated system.