Restructuring, states creation and the accompanying delusions

March 1, 2012
5 mins read

LAST weekend, the deputy president of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, held an interactive session with lawyers of South-eastern origin in Lagos.  The topic of his presentation was “Constitution Amendment, Ndigbo and Quest for State Creation”.

Senator Ekweremadu was eminently qualified to speak on these vexatious issues, having been the chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in the Sixth National Assembly, who has also been re-appointed to the same position, by the current Senate.

Ekweremadu said before the end of the last Assembly, not less than 45 requests for states creation were received from various groups. He added that the factors responsible for the agitation for more states were myriad and in his words, “they have not changed”. He argued that it was because of the need to share ‘the national cake’ and opportunities.

Senator Ekweremadu also noted that other issues fueling demand for states include minorities’ fear of domination, search for equity, quest for political empires and influence as well as search for development.

The 45 requests listed came from virtually every part of Nigeria. The demands seem clear enough; groups of elite around the country request for states to secure what Ekweremadu described as “political empires”, in order to get their own share of ‘the national cake’. And for as long as they believe there is the remote possibility of achieving these ambitions, they will keep pushing.

Ekweremadu holds out the possibility of success, because the present National Assembly is poised to give state creation ‘a well deserved’ attention, “especially now that we have broken the jinx of constitution amendment”. What he failed to state categorically, was that there was his own PERSONAL interest and that of Senate President, David Mark involved; each wants a state: Apa State for the Idoma and an extra state for the Igbo!

States creation returned to front burner

It is most interesting that the states creation issue has returned to the front burner, at a time when the din of the most-carefully choreographed agitation in recent Nigerian history, is still loudly “jarring our drink lobes”, with apologies to Wole Soyinka! That is the din of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) and its arguably most central component demand of ‘restructuring’ of Nigeria into ‘regions’.

For the ethnic or ‘tribal’ entrepreneurs that promote SNC and ‘restructuring’ into ‘regions’, especially as they often loudly proclaim, based on tribes and ethnic groups, ‘regions’, offer the ‘tribal’ and ‘ethnic’ advocates a greater size of space to dominate and cream off!

Nigeria faces a classic scenario here: a clash of agendas between two groups of elite. On the one hand,are those who have repeatedly worked the prebendal structure over the decades and perfected the art of agitation for states to create mini-empires.

These are for the purpose of securing monthly allocations from Abuja, but sufficiently ‘viable’ to create local millionaires and billionaires, where governors reign like old feudal potentates! On the other hand, are those who have spent decades on the fringes of the political process but can look back to lifelong careers as ethnic champions, and in more recent circumstances as ‘human rights activists’; and when times were hard, got funding from imperialist sources.

Their vision has the distinct advantage of hegemonic dominance in the Southern Nigerian media. But as for realism, they seem to possess very little; and that is the central tragedy of their politics of the fringe, to paraphrase Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.

Against the background of the unending demands for new states, I have often wondered if the entrepreneurs for ‘restructuring’, into ‘ethnic regions’, have ever given themselves the pause to ask whether the states we have today, are willing to dissolve into their phantom regions?

For example, despite the huffing and puffing, does Wole Soyinka or even Bola Tinubu, believe that Ondo State will willingly dissolve into what became Ekiti State and together, will abandon Akure and Ado Ekiti to be ruled again from Ibadan? Does Ndubuisi Kanu genuinely think that states in Igboland are waiting to dissolve into the delusional ‘region’ he constantly demands? Whose views does Ayo Opadokun represent in his native Offa, in Kwara State?

The North-Central is sometimes described as ‘middlebelt’, but whoever understands the complexities of the area knows how inaccurate that description is! These are real issues that underline a lot of the simplistic assumptions that many of these agitators make. They are also some of the reasons why too many delusions are woven into the agitations for SNC, despite the posturing of its advocates.

But delusion is not only embedded in the central demand of the agitation for ‘restructuring’. It is also central to one of the most emotional demands for state creation in the ‘Southeast geo-political zone’, which Ike Ekweremadu in his paper described as ‘clearly the least favoured with only five states…the south-east is also the clear underdog with only 95 out of 768 local government areas in the country excluding the six area councils of the Federal capital Territory’. This emotional point seems to be one that members of the Igbo elite have taken to heart.

Delusions and emotional outbursts

For example, Olisa Agbakoba, the erstwhile activist lawyer, who attended the presentation by Ikwewremadu, was reported to have rejected the demand for the creation of new states, because Nigeria cannot afford them, however, in his words ‘the only justification for a new state is in the South-east, other zones have six or seven states and South-east is discriminated against contrary to Section 42 of the Constitution”.

Twist the facts too often, and everybody begins to accept that black is white! Nigerian states were not created on the basis of the so-called ‘six geo-political zones’! We all know this for a fact, that states were created on the basis of the old Regions of North, West, Midwest and East. Northern Nigeria has 19 states; West has 6; Midwest 2 and Eastern Nigeria has 9 states. The greatest emotional blackmail we have lived with in recent years is the LIE that the Igbos who have FIVE of the NINE states of the old Eastern Region are somehow discriminated against and the Igbo elite then uses this persecution complex as part of a narrative of blackmail against the rest of us. But it is central to the Ekweremadu thesis, that the demand for states is fired by a need for a ‘share’ of the ‘national cake’ as well as a need for a ‘political empire’! To take the absurdity further, he envisioned ‘stakeholders’ (that faceless beast of the Nigerian system since 1999!) agreeing on certain number of states per zone: “whatever number per geopolitical zone that is agreed on, it is worthy of note that the South-east which is already short by one state, will always get one extra”!  A political empire in the making for Senator Ike Ekweremadu! But putting lipstick on a pig won’t stop it from being a swine!

Emotional blackmail built on fraud

The emotional blackmail of the ‘South-east’ having been ‘shortchanged’ has been built on an elaborate fraud! It was the Igbo elite led by former Vice President, Alex Ekuweme, which pushed for the ‘geo-political zones’, during Abacha’s constitutional conference; so how did they become suddenly ‘shortchanged’?

In truth, Nigeria cannot afford new states, never mind the absurd demand for 45 new states. It is also very difficult to envisage, realistically, a situation where the states we now have will dissolve into the ‘regions’ championed by the ‘tribal;’ and ‘ethnic’ entrepreneurs who live on and by the agitation for SNC and restructuring. Good governance issues and a people-centred democracy based on social justice seem far more realistic and eminently attainable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss