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The State Creation Debate

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Even though David Mark, Senate president, has thrown his weight behind creation of more states to correct perceived injustices, opposition against it is mounting

By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Nov. 19, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

DAVID Mark, president of the senate, is in a fix. While he has been pushing for state creation in the on-going constitutional amendment by the National Assembly, he is not enjoying the full support he requires to actualize this goal, even among his colleagues in the National Assembly.

But he is bent on it and his desperation might not be unconnected with the re-election campaign promise he made to his Idoma kinsmen of Benue south senatorial zone. While seeking re-election to represent the senatorial district for the fourth time, the soldier turned politician, said, if elected, he would ensure that the people have Apa state. “Though not the favourite at that time because Usman Abubakar, also known as Young Alhaji was very popular among the people, we voted for him since he stood the chance of retaining the position of senate president and in the position to deliver on his promise”, Oloche Agbo, an Otukpo based politician in Benue state, said.

Few miles away from Benue, the Igala people of Kogi, are also demanding for Okura. Like their Idoma counterparts, the Igalas had, hitherto, relied on Ahmadu Alli, former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, national chairman, to facilitate it for them. But now that Alli does not pull strings in government, the people may have to rely on the generosity of the National Assembly.

The Ndigbo people of the southeast are also clamouring for a state. And of all the groups demanding for states, perhaps, the Igbos may have a good reason for their request. The southeast region where they live has the least number of states. Of the six geopolitical zones, it is the southeast that has the least number of states. The northwest has seven states and the other regions have six each while the south east has five. So its demand for more states is a struggle for balance of power. Accordingly, the Igbos are asking for seven additional states.

The agitators for additional states are as innumerable as the number of ethnic and political groups in the country. In some cases, there are agitations for two different states out of an existing one. For instance, the Ibirapa people are calling for a new Oyo state while Ibadan people are also demanding for Ibadan State. So far, there are at least 33 requests for new states. However, creating new states in a democratic system is not an easy task, though Mark tried to dispel that notion at the Ojude Oba festival of Ogun State on October 28. At the event, Mark, apart from giving his endorsement for an Ijebu State for the people of Ijebu, said new states would be created because that is what would address the issue of marginalization. But Ike Ekweremadu, chairman, senate committee on constitutional review, has recently ruled out creation of new states in the on-going constitutional amendment because of the stringent constitutional requirement needed for states to be created.

[caption id="attachment_759" align="alignright" width="256"]Anyaoku opposes creation of new states Anyaoku opposes creation of new states[/caption]

The Senate President has also been taken to task by many Nigerians on the necessity of state creation. Tam David-West, a professor of virology, said it is careless and irresponsible to begin to think of creating new states when all the existing ones are “Kwashokoed” Tunde Oseni, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, and author of Reluctant Transition: Nigeria Democratic Struggles since Independence also echoed the standpoint of David-West. “Apart from Lagos and some oil producing states, the others are not economically viable. I don’t think we need more states. What we need is regional integration”, he told RealNews recently. .

Victor Ndoma Egba, senate leader, has also voiced his opposition to creating more states. To him, instead of creating new states, there should be a provision in the constitution to accommodate the merger of states. Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth secretary-general, also kicked against state creation. “As long as the country maintains the existing structure of 36 states and the federal capital territory with all the paraphernalia of the institutions for administration, we are not likely to achieve the level of reduction in the cost of administration that would enable the country develop as we ought to”, he said,

But Adetunji Oyebolu, a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Lagos State, agrees partly with Mark on the grounds that there is need to create more states to remedy the problem crated by the military in their state creation exercise. Citing Lagos State as an example, he said because of the size of its population, there is need for at least 80 local governments in Lagos State.

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