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States creation: Reps, Senators in high stake gamble

But for the Mid-Western state created by the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government, all the existing states are the creation of the various military juntas…

But for the Mid-Western state created by the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government, all the existing states are the creation of the various military juntas that ruled the country between 1966 and 1999. The matter is surely like a cannon that must surely explode because every agitator believes he is more qualified and that the other person does not deserve a state. Consequently, it has been impossible for the democratic regimes to create any more states.

Presently, the National Assembly is inundated with dozens of demands for creation of additional states. At the last count, about twenty groups representing various sections of the country have presented requests for new states. Most of the agitations are as a result of perceived marginalisation in the political equation of existing states. Some feel threatened that unless they are narrowed within a smaller heterogeneous arrangement, they can never produce a governor. The move is more likely in pursuit of political relevance in the country than for genuine rapid development. Several of the states that were created over twenty years ago are still struggling to find their bearing. Most of the existing state capitals are still lacking basic infrastructures expected of cities. The states depend solely on allocations from the sale of crude oil and surely, most of them will go into extinction with the adoption of true fiscal federalism.

However, the National Assembly will begin the consideration of the creation of more states next month. Speaking shortly before the Senate embarked on a two week recess, Senate President, David Mark, said with the successful completion of amendments to sections of the constitution that deal with political reforms, the National Assembly will now venture to consider the various demands for new states. Mark said the legislature is optimistic that this time, the exercise will be taken to a logical conclusion for the first time. He said, “there is no reason why a democratic administration cannot create states.  We are ready to break the jinx this time around and create more states under this democratic arrangement. The essence of the exercise is not necessarily because people (agitators) are oppressed, but to bring government nearer to the people so that our citizens can feel the effect of governance”.  

Point of controversy

The matter is highly a potentially controversial one because apart from the agitators, lawmakers use it as a point of campaign. Most senators and House of Representatives members from areas agitating for states have assumed the arrowhead position for the struggle to brighten their chances of returning to the legislature in 2011. Failure to secure a state for their people as promised, spells doom for their chances to make a return to the National Assembly. This means desperation on the part of all the lawmakers, with many ready to become the cogs in the wheel of the exercise should their bid fail. For instance, Mark’s chances of retaining his seat is now being hinged on his ability to deliver on his promise to liberate the Idoma people from long years of Tiv dominance by ensuring that Apa state is created. This goes for almost all senators agitating for state.

But a far more controversial point is the present balance of power between the North and the South of the country. With 19 states, the North maintains dominance and calls the shots in major political decisions in the country leaving the less compact 17 states of the South to always play a second fiddle. There is a cold acrimony on the issue of the South-East zone having five states while the North-West has seven with all the other four zones having six states. The argument is for the creation of one additional state for the South-East to balance the equation while the dominance of the North in terms of the number of states is cut to just one state.  On this matter, a senator who does not want his name mentioned, told Sunday Trust that, “it is not going to be possible. The present arrangement does not favour the North because going by our land mass and population, we are supposed to have more than 19 states but because we want to compromise for peace in the country, we agreed to have just two states more than the South which is not even up to half of the North. I want to tell you that if two additional states are to be created in the South, the North must have four and so on. We must have twice what they have because we are twice bigger.” Clearly, lawmakers from the North will not allow for the creation of just one state for the Igbo and that could lead to a controversy.

Sunday Trust gathered that there have been talks among lawmakers to have ten additional states with each of the divide having five. That will take the number of states in the North to twenty four while the South will have 22 which will maintain the gap that is a source of discomfort to many southern politicians. Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, said, “we are going to be guided by the provisions of the constitution,. We are going to be guided by other criteria including viability, including the potentials of such a state when created to promote development and promote unity, and promote the harmony in the country and also we are going to discuss among ourselves. We haven’t come to the critical stage of deciding how many states we are going to create because we want to get in all the requests.”

Far more controversial is the fact that some lawmakers are setting conditions for the state creation process. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, was recently reported to have told some state agitators that the present crop of lawmakers should be voted back as a reward for the creation of states. What the Speaker did not remember is that the process is not the prerogative of the federal legislature but a collective decision of the country, including those aspiring to depose the present crop of lawmakers. The final decision on whether states should be created or not, goes down to the state legislatures, who are closer to the people, and finally, to the people themselves through a referendum.

As the consideration process begins in about three weeks, it is certain that the National Assembly may soon realise the reasons for the failure of past civilian administrations to create states. This time, unlike in the case of the military whereby, a few persons decided on which to create and which not, this time, all the agitators for state creation will have a say through their representatives. It would be difficult to convince any of the lawmakers that while his case is not genuine, that of his colleague is carried. In the end, the exercise may end up as another case of an attempt but not the actual creation of any additional states.

Some of the states BEING demand ED

There are about ten additional states requests from the northern part of the country. The people of Adamawa North are in search of Amanah state, from Borno South comes the request for a Savannah State while the people of Bauchi want Katagum State. From the present Kano state are requests for two additional states, Kaduna also wants New Kaduna and Southern Kaduna States while the Nupe speaking people of Niger and Kwara states want Edu    state. From Kogi State is an agitation by the Igala speaking people for Okura state and from Benue comes the request for Apa state.

From the South-East are requests for Njaba state, Adada state and Aba state, from South-West there are demands for Ijebu state, Oduduwa state and Ibadan state while from the South-South there are requests for Ogoja state and Anioma. There are several others not mentioned and many others yet to be presented. It is now left for the National Assembly to set the ball rolling.

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