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Fragmentation and the Politics of State Creation In Nigeria

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Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, November 2014.
There have been continuous calls for more States in Nigeria. The agitators for more States argue that States creation will bring development closer to the door-steps of many Nigerians. The agitators for States creation maintains that such an exercise will create an opportunity for the marginalized people or ethnic groups to have access to power.
The agitators had agued that state creation will give some regions or ethnic groups more weight in their bargain for the allocation of values. They also maintain that by creating new bureaucracies, it will give mass employment to youths and other qualified graduates.
However, in Nigeria, the creation of States has always been influenced by political rather than developmental considerations. For instance, the creation of the Mid-Western State in 1963 was done out of the conspiracy by the coalition government of NPC/NCNC to divide the opposition AG’s stronghold.
The creation of 12 States by Gowon was also believed to have been motivated by the desire to whittle the influence of the then Governor of Eastern Region, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu at the height of hostilities between the Region and the Federal Government.
Also, according to Aladegbola, 2004, Osun was carved out of Oyo State in 1991 due to the battle of supremacy between two top Traditional Rulers, the Alaafin of Oyo Kingdom and the Ooni of Ile/Ife.
The 2014 National CONFAB in Abuja, recommended creation of 19 more states to the federal government out of which 18 have been approved. But to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence in Nigeria to suggest any correlation between States creation and economic, infrastructure and human capital development.
What we have is increased looting of the nation’s treasury. The implication of additional States is therefore that more Governors, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Permanent Secretaries will be created, all feeding fat on the national treasury. Besides, government bureaucracy will thus have to be created in the new States with attendant costs.
Besides, State creation in Nigeria remains entirely an elite affair. It is an enterprise controlled, prosecuted and employed by the elite for the satisfaction of elite desire for power and relevance and all the appurtenances that go with that.
The above is why since 1963; States creation has not been a basis for resolving the national question and the attendant problem of mass alienation from the political and economic processes of the nation. What has aggravated this arrant lack of effectiveness is that there does not exist an objective set of criteria for State creation in Nigeria.
Besides, State creation has become an instrument of political patronage and one designed to enhance the competitive edge of particular tendencies or regimes that become dominant at different points in the historical trajectory. Thus, the absence of a clearly defined criteria for states creation has left the door open for a continuous clamour for creation of new States.
Furthermore, States creation has not only failed to solve the problem of ethnic minorities or even the ethnic majorities, but it has also become a veritable tool with which a string of unitarist leaders have dealt a fatal blow to the Nigerian Federalism.
In other words, successive Nigerian leaders, driven by the desire to privatize political power with the attendant primitive accumulative tendencies, have systematically undetermined the structure of the Nigerian Federal system by creating States in an exercise designed as it were to weaken the so- called federating units, vis-a-vis the central government.
Again, with State creation assuming the role of the panacea for the solution of virtually all socio-economic and political problems in Nigeria, it would be expected that there would be a rapid increase in the demands for States creation with dangerous consequences or implications for Nigerian Federalism.
It is the concern and worry of many Nigerians that most of the present 36 States in Nigeria are economically unviable. A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), now the Emir of Kano, HRH, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi revealed at a public function in Benin, Edo State in year 2013 that most of the States are spending about 80{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} of their revenue in paying civil servants’ wage bills.
Sanusi lamented that “we have created States and other structures that are economically unviable and the result is that we do not have funding for infrastructure, education, health and so on. The unviable status of the extant States has therefore vitiated the argument for more States.
Almost all States depend on the federation Account to survive, and this dependent nature of States makes them subordinate to the Federal centre and negates the Federal principle of local autonomy.” He said.
It is my opinion that Nigeria does not need more States. There are many federations with higher populations, larger land mass, ethnic and other diversities, higher (GDP) and higher internally generated revenue by the federating units, yet, have less states than Nigeria.
Take for instance, the Republic of Indonesia with a population of two hundred and fifty three million has only 34 states. Brazil with a population of two hundred and two million only has 26 states. Pakistan with a population of one hundred and ninety six million has just four provinces.
My position is that creation of States to satisfy parochial and patrimonial needs will not move the country forward. States creation is not, in the least, a solution to the myriad of problems the country is facing.
Previous exercises have never been done from the perspective of bringing government and development closer to the people. Rather, it has been to score some political goals and satisfy particular interests.
What the country needs is a transformational, visionary and courageous leadership. It is evident that the creation of new states is an uncreative means of dealing with the aspects of national development. The creation of States is therefore not a solution to the problems of development and democracy in Nigeria.
Rather, the exercise will create opportunities and developments which will liberate new forces and throw up more challenges.
The present Federal structure in the country is unitarist. Nigeria runs a system of government that grants near absolute power to the Federal Executive. Therefore, I recommend a Constitutional amendment and efforts that will ensure true Federalism, rather than creating unviable and dependent States.
Also, States should be allowed to control up to 50{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} of their resources. This will reduce the number of agitations for new States because many of the proposed new States have no economic basis to sustain themselves, except their dependence of Federal revenue. It will also encourage States to look inward for internally generated revenue by diversifying the economy.
One of the reasons for an endless clamour for more States is the cry of marginalization by some purported minorities. Yet Nigerian is a heterogeneous State of more than 374 ethnic groupings. If every dominated and/or marginalized group wants a State of its own as a solution to its problems, how many States will Nigerian have?
The State and Federal Government authorities should therefore create structures and make provisions for peaceful co-existence among the various groupings in the country. There should be Constitutional arrangements which will guarantee the rights of all nationalities, especially, the rotation of elective offices among the various nationalities.
Author’s note: This article was originally published in 2014, I brought it out as a reminder to Governors championing the creation of Local Council Development Authority (LCDA) as a panacea to development, for them to do a rethink
Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, a PR Consultant wrote from Magodo, Lagos.

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