9 years ago | 110
| Mike Akpan |
IKE Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president and chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, cuts the image of a typical Nigerian politician who hardly owns up the statement he makes especially if such sparks off any controversy. The politician has his own way of disowning his statement even if such was made in a written form or recorded on tape. The reason the politician usually gives for disowning or retracting such statement is that he was either misquoted or that what he said was mischievously misinterpreted or taken out of context by the media. In every case of such denials, journalists become the sacrificial lamb or the scapegoat.
Such was the case with Ekweremadu recently. At a press conference in Abuja, November 12, he told state agitators what they did not want to hear. He made it clear that the ongoing process of reviewing the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would not lead to the creation of more states. According to him, state creation involves a rigorous process that is not easy to accomplish within the time at their disposal. He therefore advised those agitating for new states to be less hopeful about them because the hands of National Assembly are tied in that regard. What Ekweremadu said was a bitter pill for state agitators to swallow especially David Mark, Senate President, whose promise to create Apa State, earned him a re-election ticket to the seventh Senate and the Igbo of the South-east, who are not prepared to compromise their demand for an additional state to bring the number of states in the zone at par with other geo-political zones in the country. Mark could not believe that his deputy, even though he was saying the truth, could decide to pull the rug from under his feet when, all along, he had been giving people the impression that the seventh National Assembly which heads, will create more states. On the other hand, the Igbo felt thoroughly embarrassed that such a statement should come from one of their own who should have facilitated the process of giving them a new state. For these reasons, pressure was mounted on Ekweremadu to recant his statement. He finally modified it to say that states could still be created after all. As usual, he said he was misquoted. By who? Of course, the journalists.
But has the denial changed the facts on the ground? Of course not. Many Nigerians still believe we are in a military dictatorship where states can be created by fiat. In a democracy, what the National Assembly is expected to do during the constitution review is to take a critical look at the constitutional provisions for the creation of states and local government areas in the country as spelt out in sections 7 and 8 of the constitution. It has no powers to create states by fiat. Therefore, all demands for state creation must follow the stipulations in the constitution. This means that all those who want new states created for them must start the process afresh after the various amendments proposed in the constitution must have been finally passed by the National Assembly and duly ratified by two-thirds of the 36 states and assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan. But for now, there is no proper demand before the National Assembly for the creation of any state.
Be that as it may, does Nigeria really need more states? It appears that Nigerians are paying more attention to issues of state creation at the expense of good governance. As long as there are bad governments in Nigeria, there will be no end to demands for the creation of states. When I listen to state agitators argue that Nigeria can do with more than 50 states, I say to myself that this country has a big problem.
When state creation was introduced by the Yakubu Gowon military government in 1967, the objectives of the exercise were to address the issue of marginalisation caused by bad governance as well as bring about a balanced federation to ensure political stability in the country. That explained why he created 12 states with six in the north and six in the south. This balance was altered in 1976 when General Murtala Mohammed raised the number of states to 19 with 10 in the north and nine in the south. Subsequent state creations ever since have widened the gap in favor of the north. With the current 36-state structure in Nigeria, the north now has 19 states while the south has 17. Of the 774 local government areas in the country, the north has 416 while the south has 358. Unknown to many Nigerians, state creation has thrown up many serious problems. First, Nigeria is no more a balanced federation going by the number of states and local governments in the north and the south. More state creations will definitely widen the gap. This is a potential danger akin to planting a time bomb which will surely explode in the future with devastating consequences.
Second, nobody seems to worry about the cost of governance and putting up new structures of government whenever new states and local government areas are created. As a result of this proclivity for running big governments, Nigeria is condemned to spending more than 80 percent of its annual income on recurrent votes. No nation spends most of its annual budget on recurrent expenditure and still expects to develop. That is why countries like Brazil and those in south-east Asia who, in the early sixties, were in the third world with Nigeria, have left us behind to be members of either the second or first world because when we are busy creating new political and administrative structures in the states and local governments areas with our national income, Brazil and the Asian tigers channeled theirs into capital projects. If we must grow, it is now time to turn our attention to good governance. Moreover, we should look for other administrative arrangements that can guarantee the enthronement of fairness, justice and equality in the country instead of believing that state creation is the only way out.
— Dec 2, 2012, @ 12:11 GMT
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