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Disadvantages of creating new states in Nigeria

The creation of states in Nigeria was a common feature of military governments, which ruled Nigeria at different periods. Now the matter of state creation…

The creation of states in Nigeria was a common feature of military governments, which ruled Nigeria at different periods. Now the matter of state creation has come up again in the country with members of the National Assembly debating the bill for the creation of some proposed states. But at this critical political juncture in the country, and given the happenings in our political polity, do we need more states in Nigeria?

The indisputable fact is that most of Nigeria’s 36 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 practiced in the country, 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 the groundnut pyramid, the western region excelled in cocoa production. And the eastern region throve in palm oil produce.

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.

To stop the secessionist bid of the eastern region, Yakubu Gowon split the country into a 12-state structure. His deft manoeuvring (creation of states) could be rationalised because it was done to prevent the disintegration of Nigeria. But other successive military rulers created more states to ignite our country’s development and ensure the inclusion of all Nigeria’s tribes and ethnic groups in the governance of the country at different strata of government.

Cultural and religious affinities, economic viability, landmass, and population were believed to be the factors, which 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 ends and please their friends.

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 the country. 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 the country.

 

Chiedu Uche Okoye wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State

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