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Disadvantages of creating new states in Nigeria

Disadvantages of creating new states in Nigeria

The creation of states in Nigeria was a common feature of the past military governments, which ruled Nigeria at different periods. Now the matter of state creation has come up again in Nigeria, with members of the National Assembly debating the bill for the creation of some proposed states. But at this critical political juncture in Nigeria, and given the happenings in our political polity, do we need more states in Nigeria? The indisputable fact is that most of Nigeria’s thirty-six states are economically unviable and unsafe. For example, while people are starving to death in some Nigerian states, insurgents, bandits, and terrorists are abducting rich people for ransom in other states of the country.

Before the creation of states started in Nigeria in the late 1960s, we had four regions, namely the northern region, the eastern region, the western region, and the mid-western region. Regionalism, which was practised in Nigeria then, was a component of our parliamentary system of government that lasted between 1960 and 1966. At that time, all the regions in the country strove to outpace one another in diverse areas of national development.

So while the northern region was known for groundnut pyramids, the western region excelled in cocoa production. And the eastern region thrives on palm oil production.

More so, then, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the premier of the western region, who tended towards the left, espoused the principle of democratic welfarism and implemented a free education policy in the western region. In the east, Rt Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe was instrumental in the building of the University of Nigeria, which is at Nsukka. He played a significant role in the establishment of the financial institution, ACB, in Nigeria, too.

But it is incredulous that those notable politicians who inhabited our political space in the first republic couldn’t solve our country’s ethnic and religious problems. As a result, we had the bloody coup of January 1966 and the counter-coup of July 1966, which threw Nigeria into a cauldron of violence. That political violence snowballed into the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which lasted for three years.

In order to stop the secessionist bid in the eastern region, Yakubu Gowon split the country into a twelve-state structure. His deft manoeuvring (the creation of states) could be rationalised on the grounds that it was done to prevent the disintegration of Nigeria. But other successive military rulers who ruled over our country created more states so as to ignite our country’s development and ensure the inclusion of all Nigeria’s tribes and ethnic groups in the governance of Nigeria at different strata of government.

Cultural and religious affinities, economic viability, landmass, and population were believed to be the factors that our past rulers considered when they created new states. But our scrutiny of the states has shown that our leaders created the states whimsically. Or they might have created them to achieve their own ends and please their friends.

For example, now there is a town in Enugu state, the indigenes of which have kith and kin in Kogi state. So it can be seen that the creation of states in Nigeria has divided people who share the same ancestral roots instead of uniting them. And a great majority of the states in Nigeria are so financially emasculated that they depend on the centre perpetually for their survival and sustenance.

However, the proponents of the creation of new states in Nigeria have argued that creating new states in Nigeria would bring government closer to the people and ensure that there is balance or parity as to the number of states in the geopolitical zones. And they posit that the creation of new states in Nigeria will lead to the establishment of states’ civil service, which will employ new workers, thereby reducing the number of unemployed people in Nigeria.

But they glossed over the fact that the creation of states brings about the vexed matter of boundary adjustment and the sharing of jointly owned properties. Matters that border on the demarcation of boundaries and the sharing of jointly owned properties by two states are not easily resolved. Oftentimes, the matter would degenerate into violence and the shedding of blood. The breakout of violence in any part of the country can lead to the destruction of infrastructure, the loss of human lives, and, possibly, the disintegration of Nigeria.

Again, state creation will, no doubt, lead to an increase in the number of National Assembly members, which will jerk up the cost of governance in Nigeria. At present, Nigerian lawmakers receive humongous wages when compared to their counterparts in other countries. Reducing the cost of governance in Nigeria is the clarion call of well-meaning Nigerians. Our leaders should execute deeds that will benefit the lot of the hoi polloi instead of carrying out policy actions that will stall our national development.

So the stark fact is that the proponents of the creation of new states in Nigeria want fiefdoms or political empires over which they will preside in order for them to have the opportunity to loot our public exchequer. State governors are now being accused of seizing financial allocations meant for local governments. To continue exercising control over the local governments, many state governors are dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying regarding the conduct of the local governments’ elections. In many states of Nigeria, appointed local government chairmen are holding sway over the local council areas, not elected local government chairmen.

Yet the local government, which is the grassroots government, is pivotal to the development of rural towns in Nigeria. Starved of money, the appointed local government chairmen, who are political puppets, cannot perform their statutory functions and execute policies for the people. And they live in mortal fear of the state governors, who can relieve them of their posts.

But it is the entrenchment of true local government autonomy that will ignite the rapid development of the semi-urban areas and rural towns in Nigeria. Not many rural towns in Nigeria have customary and magistrates’ courts, which should handle judicial matters that border on petty crimes, marital matters, and others. And trunk roads in those towns, the maintenance of which falls under the local government areas, are neglected.

Therefore, the federal government should make the third tier of government in Nigeria, that is, the local government, truly autonomous rather than create new states in Nigeria. It should also return the country to the practice of regionalism by collapsing the states into regions or geopolitical zones, each of which will have a leader. However, the Nigerian constitution should be amended or a new one written to accommodate this proposal. Making a new constitution for Nigeria has become an overriding imperative based on the fact that new political realities and conundrums have cropped up in Nigeria.

Now, it should be obvious to all right-thinking and patriotic Nigerians that the proponents of the creation of new states in Nigeria are egotistical and unpatriotic politicians who are seized with feelings of insularity and clannishness. They want political empires over which they will preside in order for them to have unhindered access to our public exchequer.

Yours faithfully,

Chiedu Uche Okoye; Uruowulu-Obosi: Anambra State, 08062220654